“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”

By: Shawdon Molavi
Quote: Leo Buscaglia

As a clinical student at HOMES for the first time, I felt late to the game. I was unfamiliar with the format of the patient encounters and had no idea what to expect. I was admittedly more nervous than I had ever been on any rotation.

By this point, I had spent plenty of time in the hospitals with patients, but I always had mixed feelings about my role. Most of my patients had spent entire days waiting in the E.R., had been seen by countless doctors, nurses, and other providers, and were often fasting as they waited for procedures. After all of that, who would want a student to come see them? I know this is how all physicians learn, and I have been lucky that most of my patients have been tolerant and supportive of my learning process. However, with so many other doctors around, it often felt like I was going through the motions, not accomplishing anything other than inconveniencing my patients.

Carrying this view when I first went to HOMES, I was very much surprised at the crowd that quickly gathered after we entered the Beacon to triage patients. In just a few minutes, there were twice as many people asking to be seen than we had capacity for. Some had chronic issues that had been continually worsening; others had just been injured the night beforeregardless, all were eager to be helped. It quickly became apparent that this was not just another learning experience for students, but a much needed and sought after service. That worry of being a nuisance because I was a student was gone, and my only focus was to make sure I did everything I could to provide quality care to these patients.

HOMES Clinic provides a unique opportunity through which you can have a meaningful impact, even as a student. My experience was an affirmation of the main reason I wanted to become a doctor in the first placeto help others. Homelessness can be an isolating and dehumanizing experience. With such limited resources, the homeless often struggle to find people willing to help. That is probably why being able to provide such a needed, basic service felt all the more fulfilling that morning. HOMES is certainly not a solution to the wider needs of all the homeless in Houston, but it does show that a few caring individuals can make a difference.

Shawdon is a fourth year medical student at Baylor College of Medicine. He is currently applying to residencies in General Surgery.