As a physiology and public health major, Andrew Good, Arizona ’17, has his sights set on a career as a physician. There’s a practice in family and community medicine in his future, but Good knew he didn’t want to have to wait to complete his M.D. to begin helping people lead healthier lives. His chapter brother, Sai Shah, ’18, felt the same way. A double major in finance and molecular and cellular biology, Shah is also planning to attend medical school and will pursue a career in orthopedics or primary care medicine. Because it is often difficult for undergraduates to get hands-on medical training, the two brothers were willing to think outside of the box.
One day while attending a health careers event, the answer presented itself. The brothers approached the founder of Dequenesh Community Health, a local health care nonprofit, hoping to volunteer with the organization. By the time the conversation was over, she had inspired the pair to start a mobile clinic.
Good and Shah founded the campus-based nonprofit Mobile Medicats in February 2015 to provide free first aid and health screenings to homeless and low-income residents in Tucson. As it conducts fundraisers and seeks donors, the organization is operating under the guidance of Dequenesh. Deanna Lewis, the woman who inspired the brothers, currently works as a physican assistant while managing Dequenesh and acting as a mentor and advisor to the pair.
In October, Mobile Medicats was able to purchase a cargo trailer. Shah said it’s now being outfitted to serve as an exam room and that Lewis has plans to supply the organization with a truck. He and Good expect to start providing services in January 2017 and are applying for grants to cover their ongoing expenses.
Meanwhile, the brothers are working on a partnership with the University of Arizona College of Medicine that will encourage medical students to volunteer with Mobile Medicats. They plan to recruit doctors to volunteer, as well, and have signed up a loyal group of student volunteers.
Until Mobile Medicats can begin providing services, their major activity is going with volunteers on monthly “community ride-alongs,” where they go into the community to talk with the people they want to serve in order to better understand their needs.
It’s a huge undertaking for a couple of college students, but Good said his experience in SigEp made him believe it was possible. If it weren’t for SigEp, “I wouldn’t have been confident or ambitious enough to chase something like this,” he explained.
While community health isn’t a high-profile medical specialty, Good firmly believes in it, stating, “It’s what the community needs most.”