Macomb County Street Medicine brings empathy and medical care to the unhoused


“Philosophically speaking, we physicians and future physicians have a duty to actively seek out the acute medical needs of our unsheltered brothers and sisters,” says Dr. Bret Bielawski, faculty advisor of the new Macomb County Street Medicine (MCSM) student organization. 

“Even if there aren’t any acute medical issues to address, simply listening to their story and providing empathy is the first step,” he continues. “Our osteopathic students are already well adept at this as they’ve been doing this since the beginning of medical school.”

This SpartanDO alum and faculty member has long been inspired to start a street medicine organization at the Macomb campus to address the great need in the area. After consulting with the leaders of Detroit Street Care (DSC) and Spartan Street Medicine for months and attending street runs with DSC to better understand the resources needed to operate such a program, the club launched in February 2022.

MCSM partners with HARM:LESS, a substance abuse support service and education program operated by the nonprofit Families Against Narcotics (FAN), which has a strong rapport with locals in the area. “We are lucky to have an organization that knows the area and community well,” Bielawski says. As a longtime board member of FAN, Bielawski was able to quickly streamline the working partnership of the two organizations.  

Together, SpartanDO students and FAN members set up at the corner of a bus stop in southern Macomb County to provide medical guidance, care, and substance use harm reduction services three days per week in four-hour shifts.

In just the first three weeks since they launched, the medical students of MCSM have served over 50 patients, primarily addressing soft tissue infections related to injection drug use—and most of all, showing empathy and respect to those they care for.

“We’re meeting people where they’re at in life,” Bielawski says. “We’re asking what they need, we’re not being prescriptive about what we think they need.”

Another value add of the street medicine services—beyond addressing the health needs of individuals—is that treating these issues now relieves the health system in the long run by averting unnecessary emergency room visits.

However, if a higher level of care is needed, ER physician Dr. Joe Carlier on the MCSM team can fast-track patients though McLaren Macomb’s ER.

Rounding out the team is Dr. Carolina Restini, a researcher and professor at the College of Osteopathic Medicine, and 15 first- and second-year SpartanDO students.

The MCSM team has big plans for the future of the organization. But for now, “We’re going to keep a pulse on the current medical needs of community,” Bielawski says.

For more information about joining or supporting the Macomb County Street Medicine organization, contact Dr. Bret Bielawski at, or donate online at using the allocation code AS00464.