A human-centered approach to medicine

Michael Hernandez, P&S Class of 2018

I grew up in a household that was very committed to service work, so growing up a lot of my weekends were spent in a homeless shelter or a soup kitchen, helping traditionally underserved populations. I really, really enjoyed giving back in that sense.

As I progressed in my education, in high school and in college, I realized that I really enjoyed the sciences and doing a lot of investigational learning. I think with medicine I’m still able to give back to the communities who need us most, but I’m also able to fulfill my desire for scientific pursuits. I’m hoping to do emergency medicine, which has been an interest of mine for a really long time now. The beauty of emergency medicine is that we don’t turn anyone away. Whoever comes to our door, we’re going to help them the best we can.

One of my most meaningful experiences in medical school has been CHHMP, the Columbia-Harlem Homeless Medical Partnership, a large [P&S student-run] clinic which accepts about eight first-year students every year. Students are committed during their entire time at medical school to coming into clinic whenever they’re available to. We are open every Tuesday evening, operate out of a church down in Harlem, and usually see anywhere between ten to twenty patients a night. There is certainly a need for our services, and it’s a remarkably formative experience for us all. I think the service we do really grounds us as medical students, and working with these underserved populations makes us more humanistic providers.