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  • Alyssa Kornacki

Canisius students volunteer with RAM trip

Canisius College students were among the 400 volunteers who served the Belmont, NY community and surrounding areas Sept. 23 through Sept. 25 with free vision services. The Canisius students arrived on Friday to assist with setting up clinical spaces, welcoming patients into the parking areas and worked throughout the weekend in the vision lab making glasses. In addition, medical and dental clinics were provided for community members. This clinic is set up in a community area school and about 250 patients were served, equating to $120-25 thousand in assistance to this community, in one weekend.

These trips are co-led by the Society of Pre-Health Professionals student organization with financial support from the Undergraduate Student Association. This Remote Area Medical (RAM) trip was the sixth clinic Griffs have helped with and started in 2018 when RAM first came to our area. A total of 153 students and 23 alumni overall have participated in clinics. Two clinics were before COVID. 10 students from Canisius participated in this service trip with three undergraduate students, Matthaeus Hendricks, Marissa Silba and Brendan Davies. There were also six alumni who participated, one in the Canisius PA program, one in medical school, three who will start in the Canisius PA program in January and one who will go to optometry school next year. Additionally, one grad student in the PA program joined the trip. The setup day for volunteers was 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and then volunteers started at 5:15 a.m. to get the clinics opened at 6 a.m., finishing around 6 p.m. Community members go to receive assistance, regardless of income or insurance needs. Many of them camp out overnight to ensure they can be in line to receive services. Yusuf Hashmi, who has assisted with RAM in the past, remarked, “RAM was an eye-opener as I saw genuine healthcare needs and direct impact. What I mean by genuine is that RAM, in providing free medical care, bypasses other socioeconomic and political hindrances that have become commonplace in the medical field. RAM allows healthcare to revert to its true nature of helping people live healthier lives.”

In the past,1,500 patients have been treated and just under $1 million in services have been provided through weekend RAM clinics. Canisius students receive on-the-job training and learn skills that they can eventually use in their fields. Dr. Backstrom, director of the Pre-Medical Center at Canisius shared, “This experience is often one of the most profound for our pre-med/pre-health students. It shapes how they think about their future in healthcare, especially their responsibility to help lessen disparities in the future and how they want to be with their future patients.” Many students are inspired by other services back here in Buffalo. In fact, some students also volunteered in Cheektowaga during Covid when RAM helped to staff drive-thru COVID testing during the very early days of the pandemic, supporting even our own community. Canisius has had some students who have trained as EMTs and dental assistants that have helped more directly with patient care. Additionally, students studying multiple languages have served as interpreters at these clinics.

Matthaeus Hendricks said, “RAM in the fall of 2021 really helped me to understand inequalities in healthcare and understand the responsibility healthcare providers have in combating these disparities.” Another student, Anthony Fuszara, who has previously participated in RAM, said of the experience, “I really enjoy meeting the hundreds of people that come to volunteer and receive care. It really taught me how we are all connected, we are all humans.” The valuable experience that each student gains is unique and each and each of them has built an even larger community feeling and a love for the healthcare profession.

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