Hundreds of people, many who lined up as early as 5 a.m., turned out for the Miller School’s 17th annual Little Haiti Health Fair organized by the Mitchell Wolfson Sr. Department of Community Service (DOCS).
First-year medical student Brian Simmons administers eye drops to Guirlande Aime during her ophthalmology exam at the DOCS Little Haiti Health Fair.
Miller School students were thrilled to see the crowds, knowing that so many people benefit from the free and outstanding services they offer under the supervision of faculty physicians. They also know that, for some area residents, the fair provides the most comprehensive preventive care they’ll receive all year — and for a few the visit could be lifesaving.
“I don’t have insurance,” said Marcelin St. Suryn, who heard about the health fair on Haitian radio and figured it would be a good place for a prostate exam and other screenings.” For people like me, this health fair is a blessing.”
The October 29 health fair, held at the Center for Haitian Studies at 8260 Northeast 2nd Avenue, is one of nine weekend health fairs DOCS operates every year in Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties, bringing crucial health screenings and education to more than 2,000 people. DOCS students also staff two Miami-area clinics under the supervision of faculty physicians.
“As Dean of the Miller School, I know what our medical students are capable of and I know how devoted they are to community service,” said Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean, who made his annual rounds at the Little Haiti fair. “It is truly heart-warming to see these health fairs in action, to watch how hard our students and faculty doctors work to ease the burden of unaffordable health care for so many, and to witness the gratitude from patients.”
Though Guirlande Aime has health insurance, she counted herself among the many grateful. The Little Haiti health fair wasn’t on her radar, but when she accompanied her sister and two cousins, who are all uninsured, she was so impressed by the array of screenings, the eagerness and skill of the medical students, and the compassion of their supervising faculty physicians that she decided to take advantage of a few services.
“I think about how much it cost just to have your eyes checked, and the people here today are getting that and much more—for free,” Aime said as she left her vision exam and headed to another station. “For people who don’t have insurance, this is a great deal. What the students are doing is good for this community.”
In addition to eye exams, medical students conducted dermatological exams, lipid panels, prostate cancer exams, breast exams and Pap smears under the guidance of faculty doctors. Screenings for depression and glaucoma and various tests for children also were available.
“For an underserved community so determined to maintain their health, the fair helps to prevent illness and increase accessibility to health care,” said DOCS member Ashish H. Shah, a second-year medical student who, as the health fair’s project manager, was busy ensuring all the stations were fully staffed and patients didn’t wait needlessly.
In addition to about 150 medical students, volunteers included representatives from undergraduate student organizations at UM, students from Barry and Nova Southeastern universities and area high schools, and members of local churches.
“Providing service to the community has been a longstanding tradition and core mission of the Miller School,” said Alex J. Mechaber, M.D., senior associate dean for undergraduate medical education, who was among the two dozen faculty volunteers. “This health fair represents service learning at its finest.”
The health fair remains popular, according to the center’s executive director, Larry Pierre, M.D., M.P.H., not only because residents have a need, but because “they can rely on great care.”
“Patients have developed a trusting relationship with us,” Pierre said. “What you see happening here today is a result of outstanding collaboration with UM.”