A Health Careers Scholarship Recipient’s Message

My name is Denis Ostick and I am a 4th year medical student at Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, PA. I am studying to become an emergency physician. The emergency room prides itself on being open for anyone, for any reason, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. There are no questions asked about someone’s background or ability to pay before helping them. In that way, I believe the emergency room embodies the same values of our God and the IOKDS.

One day of medical school in particular touched me and reminded me of the deep connections with others that fueled me to pursue medicine. It was a cold morning in January when I was a part of a team who provided outreach medical care, food, and supplies to those experiencing homelessness around the city of Philadelphia through a program called Project HOME. Many of those we encountered struggle with addiction as Philadelphia has been gripped by the opioid crisis. One neighborhood in particular, Kensington, is unfortunately one of the hardest hit places in the country.

Alongside a family medicine resident and an outreach worker, we drove around the city, stopping by anyone on the street who looked in need. We would get out of the car and spend time talking to the individual and see how we could help. Sam, the veteran outreach worker, would write their name down on a notepad and coordinate their place in a shelter if they desired. It was incredible how many of those on the street he knew by name, birthday (he would give them a big chocolate cake), and family situation. The resident and I would ask those we met if they needed any medical care. I listened to the lungs of a young man with a bad cough then gave out antibiotics to suppress a bacterial infection along with a care package of socks, water, and snacks. Early on in the day, a screaming man chased after our car in the middle of the street. When he finally caught up, he had joyful tears and wanted to thank Sam for securing him housing weeks before.

When we left center city and drove to Kensington, it felt as if I was in a different world and yet it was right down the road from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. There were crowds of people who were injecting heroin out in the open as the morning daylight shone through the raised subway tracks above. We stopped and began to give out food and offer medical care. I will never forget a young woman who came up to us for wound care of an abscess that had popped near an injection site on her shoulder. When she lifted the bandage, I could see all the way to her shoulder muscle. I applied antibiotic cream and patched it up with a clean bandage. This wound was so deep that it needed medical attention in a hospital. We gave out the last remaining snacks, socks, and toiletries before heading back to school.

Amidst all of the hardship and sadness of the situation these people were in, what I saw was their resiliency and humanity. I was overwhelmed by how grateful every person was on that brisk, chilly morning. Everyone shared the food and supplies we offered. None I cared for questioned that I was just a medical student in training. They simply trusted me to help. I can’t help but think of all the factors working against these people, including poverty and stigma, and how that affects their health and wellbeing. As an emergency physician, I will encounter these individuals in their vulnerable moments. By practicing as a compassionate physician with the belief in Christ instilled in me, I hope to align with the mission of the IOKDS in “caring for all God’s children through service In His Name.”

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