Date of Award

Fall 1-6-2017

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)

Department

Public Health

First Advisor

Emily Graybill, PhD

Second Advisor

Aleta Christensen, MPH

Abstract

INTRODUCTION: Street medicine programs utilize a nontraditional healthcare model to provide care to populations experiencing homelessness. Through street medicine programs, clinicians take to the streets to offer services to individuals who are living unsheltered. Many street medicine programs offer health professional students the opportunity to volunteer and provide care to this vulnerable population.

AIM: This exploratory study aimed to answer the following question: what influence does volunteering with a street medicine program have on the career trajectories of student volunteers who ultimately choose to work with medically underserved populations (MUPs)?

METHODS: This study used an exploratory mixed methods approach to answering the research question. The core ideas that emerged from the qualitative data collected from street medicine student volunteers were used to inform the development of a web-based survey administered to a broader, national sample of street medicine student volunteers. The survey included closed- and opened- ended questions, as well as demographic questions. The Health Professionals’ Attitude Towards the Homeless Inventory (HPATHI; Buck et al., 2005) questionnaire was embedded into the survey to measure students’ attitudes towards the population experiencing homelessness before and after volunteering with a street medicine program.

RESULTS: The results suggested that 15 (65.22%) of the 23 participants who completed the web-based survey reported that volunteering with a street medicine program influenced their decision to ultimately work with MUPs. Of the 19 participants who provided qualitative feedback, 7 (36.84%) mentioned that their decision to work with MUPs was influenced by their increased exposure and awareness to the barriers and needs of MUPs while volunteering with a street medicine program. Additionally, 6 (31.58%) participants mentioned that their previous decision to work with MUPs was reinforced while volunteering with a street medicine program.

CONCLUSION: Volunteering with a street medicine program appears to help motivate students to work with MUPs. Incorporating opportunities to volunteer with a street medicine program into current health professional school curriculum has the potential to impact a greater network of students, as well as influence decisions regarding the students’ careers.

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