‘Very inspiring’ feminine hygiene product drive held by OUWB Student Run Free Clinic
An image of products that were donated
Left to right: Kaitlyn Quach M2, Felicia Fong M2, Catherine Pokropek, M.D., and Melissa Kennedy, M.D., distributing hygiene products to Gary Burnstein Community Health Clinic in Pontiac.

An OUWB student group and Detroit-based nonprofit recently collaborated on a successful feminine hygiene product drive.

From Dec. 1 to Jan. 5, a total of 6,317 pads, 3,918 tampons, 207 bras, and 238 pairs of underwear were collected. The items were collected and split between the OUWB Student Run Free Clinic (SRFC) and the Detroit Chapter of I Support the Girls (ISG) for distribution.

SRFC is just one of many services available at the Gary Burnstein Community Health Clinic in Pontiac. ISG is a national organization that works to end period poverty.

The drive was held in conjunction with the traditional holiday season to help people get into the “giving spirit.”

That can include buying feminine products to donate along with their gifts, said Felicia Fong, M2, co-director, SRFC. It’s also a reminder that many women, especially those underprivileged, still have trouble accessing menstrual products many take for granted, she added.

“This is a necessity that we don't give a second thought to when you go shopping, but it does add up,” she said.

“We've collected so much in the past year, but we're already running out. We know that our patients really need them,” said Kaitlyn Quach, M2, co-director, SRFC. “It's not just monthly either. They come and collect whatever amount that they want.”

The hygiene drive has had great success, with the number of donated items increasing every year, to the point that the volunteers had to find extra storage, giving clinic patients extra peace of mind.

“It’s important that we have enough to keep going, because patients look forward to getting these supplies when they come to the clinic,” said Quach. “We want to continue providing them and not be a one-time thing.”

The feminine hygiene product was started by Catherine Pokropek, M.D., assistant professor, and OB-Gyn at Corewell Health William Beaumont University Hospital and Mission OB-Gyn.

In 2018, after reading an article about how the most requested products in homeless and women’s shelters were menstrual products and women’s undergarments — and learning that they were the least donated — it led Pokropek to act.

She joined in partnership with Emma Randall, M.D., OUWB ’22, OB-Gyn, Corewell Health William Beaumont University Hospital, who helped expand the reach of the drive with medical students.

More from OUWB

More than $3,000 raised for childhood cancer research at student-led fundraiser

New free clinic started by OUWB student organization serves Hispanic community

Unique magic:’ PIG Roast returns to form in 2024, nets $3,500 for nonprofit

“I started to ask other OB-Gyn offices in the area, Troy Beaumont, and then other medical students and residents to join in,” said Prokropek. “Dr. Randall, also a student at OUWB at the time, jumped on board saying it was a worthy cause. She took the reins and went with it. She was great about advertising the need for others to continue this each year.”
The drive expanded to the SRFC when Prokropek saw it was a learning opportunity for student volunteers.

“I thought it would be a perfect way to show the residents and students the impact of what they were working so hard in trying to do,” said Prokropek. “They see directly how their donations make a difference with patients they interact with.”

“Students learn how to build strong patient relationships because the same patients will come to the same clinic every other month. It's also a great way for student leaders to learn how to run a clinic and be more in charge of the outsides,” said Fong.

And with the drive helping their patients, it also teaches the volunteers the importance of community and leadership, which are major components of OUWB’s mission.

“Getting involved in our community doesn’t have to be extravagant. It can be simple as this (the drive),” said Fong.

“We're working to break down barriers in health care and give back to our community. It shows how community-focused the students are and the physicians are so kind. And the power of teamwork. It’s evident in our project here,” said Fong.

“Having a supportive community and working together makes a big difference. The more connections you make, the bigger impact you can make as well,” said Quach.

“I see how dedicated and eager they (the students) were to help me,” said Prokropek. “I'm very proud not just of that work ethic, but just how they approach everything with 100%. It's very inspiring.”

To request an interview, visit the OUWB Communications & Marketing webpage.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.