For some, spring break means heading to the beach, the mountains, or just enjoying time away from the classroom. But for a small group of students from Samuel Merritt College (SMC) in Oakland, CA, it means packing their scalpels, diagnostic and surgical medical instruments, gloves, and reference books to provide medical aid to New Orleans citizens affected by Hurricane Katrina.
Under the supervision of Peter Barbosa, PhD, professor of biochemistry and immunology and
director of research at Samuel Merritt College, and local New Orleans podiatrist, Denardo Dunham, DPM, five Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) students will provide a week of free clinical service in New Orleans' Lower 9th Ward Health Clinic that began April 7.
"Our students work hard all year round going to class, studying, and working at clinics. They could easily have stayed home and enjoyed their break, and it is great to see the students come together to help people they have never met," said Barbosa.
The Lower Ninth Ward, sometimes just referred to as the "Lower 9," came to national attention for its tragic devastation in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. This predominantly
African-American, working-class neighborhood remains largely in ruins two and a half years later.
The trip was made possible by a donor-advised fund held at the college for community service projects, student-led fundraisers, donations from the SMC community, and the assistance of the Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ and collaborating partner ACT-All Congregations Together, who provided logistical assistance.
Discussions are currently underway regarding future partnership with the Samuel Merritt College Family Nurse Practitioner and Physician Assistant programs and the Lower 9th Ward Health Clinic.
The students will return home April 14, just in time for the spring term.