MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine students receive special recognition for community engagement


By: Brianna Robinson

Two MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine students have been recognized by Michigan State University for their outstanding commitment and work with Detroit Street Care.

Third-year medical student Ellie Small and second-year student Justin Abadejos received a Commendation for Excellence in Community Engagement Scholarship by the Office of the Associate Provost for University Outreach and Engagement and the Office of the Associate Provost for Graduate Education in February.

The commendation is part of the Graduate Student Award for Community Engagement Scholarship which recognizes one graduate or graduate professional student each year for outstanding community-engaged work. Special commendations are also awarded to students for additional outreach efforts that have had a strong and lasting impact.

Formed in 2014, Detroit Street Care, or DSC, is a weekly student-run clinic that partners with the Neighborhood Services Organization Tumaini Center, a crisis support hub for those currently experiencing homelessness in downtown Detroit. Student doctors are given the chance to put their classroom knowledge into action while attending to the health needs of actual patients.

“Through Detroit Street Care, we partnered with Street Medicine Detroit out of the Wayne State School of Medicine and took on a handful of community activities throughout the past year,” Abadejos said, who is current president of DSC.

Community activities have ranged from advocating for patients to end encampment displacements during the pandemic to volunteering at community COVID testing sites. Other projects have included providing community outreach teams with essential supplies for individuals experiencing homelessness, as well as creating and maintaining hand washing stations placed throughout the city to promote hand hygiene for those without access.

Small and Abadejos understood the challenges affiliated with homelessness, especially during the pandemic and worked diligently to provide leadership and sustain projects such as the handwashing stations throughout Detroit. Recognizing their advocacy, Small and Abadejos were nominated by Dr. Richard Bryce.

“We are so lucky to have Justin and Ellie as leaders of Detroit street care. They are extremely hard working and dedicated and truly care about their patients,” Bryce said, who is an assistant professor, physician and Detroit Street Care faculty advisor in the College of Osteopathic Medicine. “It is evident by the look on patient’s faces that they are so appreciative for Justin and Ellie. I have seen it firsthand, whether a patient just wants to give Ellie a hug or the time one of Justin’s patients gave him a shiny watch. The patients see the true love and care that they demonstrate. When you walk around Detroit, everyone knows them. It is incredible.”

Detroit Street Care operates on a volunteer basis and has had hundreds of students throughout the years dedicate time outside of the clinical setting. Teams of students perform a complete history and physical exam, develop an assessment, construct a treatment plan and work with faculty preceptors to deliver appropriate care.

“Justin and I have been involved in street medicine for as long as we have been in medical school,” Small said, who is the former president of DSC. “Luckily we had fantastic students who came before us to pave the way for the work we are able to take part in as well as an international community of volunteers and providers doing street medicine around the world to look up to.”

The organization also has a transdisciplinary team of physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, case managers and other community allies who they work with on a regular basis. The organization also has numerous community partners ranging from outreach teams to shelter-based clinics, housing resources and legal support.

“The people we have the privilege of serving and working alongside continue to inspire me day in and day out,” Abadejos said. “From the providers and case managers dedicated to providing basic needs for our friends experiencing homelessness to our patients themselves, you’ll find inspiration around every corner. It is a great privilege to work alongside all of them.”

Small and Abadejos were recognized at the annual Michigan State University Outreach and Engagement Awards Ceremony on February 24th and each received a stipend of $250. Small plans to use the funds for educational expenses and Abadejos plans to use the stipend for board prep resources.

“I hope to bring street medicine to whatever community I end up serving during my residency years and beyond,” Abadejos said. “I want to continue to advocate for the health care and well-being of vulnerable populations and especially our friends experiencing any type of homelessness.”

If you’d like to help support Detroit Street Care, click here.