Street Medicine receives $5K award from Michigan Health & Hospital Association
An image from a Street Medicine Oakland event

Street Medicine Oakland has been selected as a recipient of the 2024 Ludwig Community Benefit Award from the Michigan Health & Hospital Association.

The OUWB student-led initiative — run with the assistance of many physicians from Corewell Health William Beaumont University Hospital in Royal Oak — was recognized at the organization’s annual meeting on Thursday.

Named in memory of Patric E. Ludwig, a former MHA president who championed investing in the community’s overall health, the award is presented to member organizations integrally involved in collaborative programs to improve the health and well-being of area residents.

Each winner receives $5,000 from the MHA Health Foundation to assist in its health improvement efforts.

“We’re thrilled that the work we’re doing with underserved populations is being recognized and supported by a lot of people throughout the community and state,” said Brian Felice, M.D., emergency medicine physician, Corewell Health, and medical director of Street Medicine Oakland (SMO).

Past winners have included programs affiliated with Henry Ford Health, Trinity Health, Spectrum Health, and more.

“Our team is super excited and grateful to receive this award, especially after seeing who has won this award previously,” said Ryan Victorjoseph, M3, and part of the leadership team for 2024-25.

Kaithlyn Duong, M3, and another member of the leadership team, said the $5,000 will go a long way.

“We don’t really get a lot of money coming into our organization, but we want to be able to provide as much as we can to the patients we see,” she said.

‘The impact you can have’

SMO is a first-of-its-kind program in Oakland County.

It launched in late 2019 after two years of work led by Lexie Ranski, M.D., and Tory Drzyzga, M.D. — both OUWB ’21.  

Per its website, SMO “aims to bridge the gap between the homeless members of our community and health care providers. We work to better understand our patients’ realities, so that we may provide quality medical care and resources, while equipping future physicians and leaders in health care with perspective and experience caring for the homeless population.” SMO also has engaged in other community outreach efforts, such as winter clothing drives and workshops at local high schools.

Funding for SMO comes from various sources. In 2020, it was awarded a $57,000 grant from the DMC Foundation. SMO also receives philanthropy funding from the CHWBUH emergency department.

OUWB students volunteer a total of more than 1,000 hours a year for SMO.

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Victorjoseph said that SMO appeals to OUWB students because it’s one of the very first opportunities they have for patient encounters.

“You get to see the impact you can have, even if it’s in a small way…bringing meds to someone or just talking to someone on the street,” he said.

Victorjoseph added that it also affords students a great opportunity to work with physicians from Corewell Health William Beaumont University Hospital’s (CHWBUH) Emergency Department.

They provide clinical oversight, and Felice estimates that physicians volunteer a total of more than 200 hours a year for SMO (each physician works with at least three students at a time).

“The collaboration between OUWB and Corewell Health physicians is what really makes it so that we are able to continue to function,” said Felice. “We certainly couldn’t do it without the students, but we also couldn’t do it without all of the physician volunteers from Corewell.”

Felice said physicians have good reasons for volunteering with SMO.

“As physicians, we’re looked at as leaders, and I think that it’s of utmost importance that we represent that well in the community,” he said. “I was born and raised in this community, so I feel connected…it’s important that we speak up for our patients and advocate for them while they’re in the hospital and outside of brick-and-mortar clinical settings.”

Looking ahead, Felice, Victorjoseph, and Duong said SMO is committed to continue servicing the community and looking at ways to possibly expand its geographic coverage area. (Currently, it’s primarily focused on Pontiac.)

The MHA award will help with those efforts.

“(The award) will help cover the costs of medications, and other needed supplies and essentials for our patients,” said Felice. “And as we continue to look at ways to grow the program, the money will help with essential startup costs.”

For more information, contact Andrew Dietderich, senior marketing specialist, OUWB, at [email protected].

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

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