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Bringing the Community to the Clinic

Last week, our medical director, Dr. Randi Abramson received the Volunteer Clinical Faculty Award at the George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences Alpha Omega Alpha banquet and induction ceremony. In her remarks to the attendees, Dr. Randi recounted the story of how GW led her to Bread for the City. The following is an edited version of her remarks. 

My relationship with GW goes back a long way. When I first moved to DC and was looking for my next step out of residency, I was introduced to this amazing woman, Eve Bargmann, who was the Director of the GW Primary Care Residents at the time.  I opted to do a Fellowship in Primary Care at GW and tagged along with Eve and the residents to this little free clinic in the basement of a townhouse on the corner of 14th and N Street.

Eve was an amazing role model to me and my first connection to the community clinics in DC.  

My first job after the fellowship was at this clinic, where I still work today. Bread for the City.

Primary care residents still come to Bread to see patients.  But so do GW medical students and more recently Internal Medicine Residents in the Underserved Medicine and Public Health tract.  

In 2007, I was approached by the GW students who were looking for space to start their own student-run clinic. In the Bread for the City tradition, we did not hesitate to say ”yes” to any idea that would help the community.  

We promised to figure out the details as we go.

Working with students and residents is really a privilege.

It’s a little tricky to bring teaching into the community.  Especially given the history of racism in this country, with documented experimentation on African Americans. The glaring statistics of health disparities in communities of color.  For good reasons, patients are skeptical of new faces. Students and residents have to earn their trust.

At Bread for the City, we try to show a different model of care. I love introducing students and residents to this model. It’s holistic- with behavioral health, dental, and vision, in our medical home. But we also have legal, social services and food under our roof.  Because our health is complex, it takes all these efforts working together to see improved quality of life for each patient.

And I love to introduce students and residents to a model of health that reflects racial equity inside the exam room. We talk about power dynamics. And in the middle of a busy clinic, how to stop and really listen to our patients before we offer options for treatment that will work for them.

Just as my patients inspire me every day, I am inspired by students and residents. When we leave the exam room together and quickly debrief,  I am challenged to hear from their perspective what happened and how to problem solve with even more perspectives in mind.

So, thank you all for honoring the volunteer faculty and including me in that honor.  Let us all continue to come to work each day as we are, but be open to new ideas and as we go home at the end of the day, be changed just a little.

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