GW medical school students raise money for clinic

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Soccer tickets and meals at local restaurants were among the items available to the highest bidder at Thursday night’s HEALing auction, held in Columbian Square.

HEALing – a medical student-run clinic that offers patients free primary and prevention care – raised more than $15,000 by auctioning outings with School of Medicine and Health Sciences faculty to various restaurants in and around D.C., premium tickets to a D.C. United soccer game and a handmade glass vase valued at $2,000. Local businesses, medical school students and their families donated the items auctioned in support of the clinic.

“The D.C. community really stepped up and donated a lot of stuff,” said Laura Cookman, a second-year medical student and organizer of the event. “Any proceeds from tonight are going to the clinic, the rest of the costs, including food, have been covered by donations.”

The medical school has held a charity auction for the past nine years. This is the second year all the proceeds have gone to HEALing and the first year organizers opened the auction to the general public, Cookman said.

“Its gone fantastically well, it’s really great to see everyone come together for such a great cause that our class is so very passionate about,” Cookman said.

HEALing – which stands for health, education and active living – has been a major success due largely to medical students’ enthusiastic support of the program, said Rani Nandiwasa, also a second-year medical student.

Organizers received more than 200 applications from students to participate in the program, but due to limited space and resources, they only accepted half the volunteers who applied, said Tim Amass, president of the medical school’s class of 2010.

The student-sponsored clinic is run in conjunction with Bread for the City – a local non-profit organization that provides comprehensive support services for vulnerable District residents. Teams of 15 GW medical students work at the clinic once a week diagnosing patients, running tests in the lab and answering phones. Nandiwada said she wants to work for a free clinic upon graduating from medical school and knew she wanted to establish a student-run clinic at GW as soon as she arrived on campus.

“This is a great opportunity for other students, and I to get some hands-on medical experience (helping) the community while still in medical school,” Nandiwada said.

The clinic opened with a $30,000 grant the American Association of Medical Colleges that ends in 2010. Currently the clinic is half way through the grant money, said HEALing members.

Organizers of the auction collaborated with students at Howard University Medical School, who are also interested in beginning a student run clinic, and plan on extending the program to include more volunteers working on separate nights at different clinics.

“We want to start expanding our work at the clinic because there is clearly more than enough interest from students and there is clearly a need in the community for the services that we provide,” Nandiwada said. “We have met out goals and we will continue to move forward to help accommodate as many people as possible.”

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