Patient Support & Advocacy

Making house calls to those without homes 

It’s hardly atypical that Moudi Hubeishy goes on medical rounds a couple nights a week. But those rounds—the setting, the patients and the circumstances—are far from typical.

Hubeishy, a fourth-year medical student at the University of Buffalo’s Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (UB), isn’t rounding the tiled terrain of a clinic. He’s instead journeying blocks, if not miles, across concrete in search of patients for UB HEALS, a street medicine outreach program he founded in 2016.

“We shouldn’t just be seeing these patients and conditions in a book or in clinics where we have all the defenses,” he says. “We have to break down the barriers to go where the patient is and learn what we can do for them.”

A helping hand in his own back yard

Hubeishy has spent virtually his entire life in upstate New York, growing up in Fairport, a town located about 10 miles outside of Rochester. He opted to stay in the area for his undergraduate degree, attending Nazareth College, where he earned a bachelor's degree in biochemistry.

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After graduating, he spent a year working in the college volunteer program in the Rochester City School District.

Though the schools in which Hubeishy volunteered were mere miles from the public schools he attended as a child, the district’s profile was much different than those in Fairport. The district had a high-school graduation rate below 50 percent, and part of Hubeishy’s job was to join other administrators in conducting truancy checks on absent students.

Seeing those students outside a scholastic setting was a harsh reality. Hubeishy recalls entering rundown homes without basic amenities such as electricity. In some instances, he’d arrive at a student’s home to find the family had abandoned it entirely.

“The kids in the Rochester elementary schools were the same young, happy kids I had in my elementary schools growing up,” he says. “The difference was their environment. The outlook for hope they had was skewed from the beginning.”

In a matter of months, he started a program aimed at offering activities and academic support for Rochester students. With his sights set on medical school, he had big ideas for making an impact in the underserved patient population through a social medicine project.

The most vulnerable patients

The National Coalition for the Homeless estimates that between 2.3 and 3.5 million Americans experience homelessness each year. That population is far more prone to adverse health conditions—people experiencing homelessness have a shorter life expectancy.

A 2017 report on the homeless population in Erie County, in which Buffalo is located, found that more than 5,800 people in the county experienced homeless between October 2016 and September 2017. The 2015 version of that report found that 37 percent of patrons who stayed at an emergency shelter had at least one long-term disability. The list of those conditions included mental illness (24 percent), substance abuse (21 percent) and physical disabilities (12 percent).

As those numbers portend, the medical and psychosocial needs of patients experiencing homelessness are often dire. Yet they can be poorly addressed by public health outreach projects.

With a desire to help underserved patients fresh on his mind from his time working in Rochester, Hubeishy began to ponder ways to make a difference in Buffalo as a first-year medical student.

Read this story in its entirety as featured in our inaugural issue of AMA Moving Medicine.