Patrick Perri, 1998-1999 Pittsburgh Schweitzer Fellow
In his first year of medical school, Pat worked as a Schweitzer Fellow with Operation Safety Net, an organization of physicians and health professionals who provide street-based health care in the Pittsburgh area. This outreach program had Pat and the other volunteers making street rounds, educating homeless people about various social services, and, most of all, building relationships with them. In all, Operation Safety Net provided more than 500 TB screenings and close to 75 HIV tests.
“I became confident in the fact that I wanted to do work for underserved communities. I got to really believing this is something I ought to do.”
A Pittsburgh Fellow from 1998-1999, Pat continued his work with the program through all four years of medical school, and this service solidified his future pursuits. His conviction brought him to Massachusetts General Hospital; the hospital’s connection to Boston’s Health Care for the Homeless and the presence of service-oriented mentors were in line with Pat’s career goals. “I want to be in an academic role where I can expose healthcare professionals to the importance of providing health services to underserved communities, particularly in urban areas,” Pat says. At Mass General, Pat will begin work in a clinic that will provide primary care to homeless and indigent people on an on-going basis.
Pat’s dedication to underserved communities is not always met with great support. At times, he faces outright skepticism and discouragement from his peers and doctors. Some have told him that he is wasting his time, not focusing on his career, and pursuing something that is not entirely academic nor directly helpful to his training. For Pat, however, this is not only a worthwhile pursuit, but something that should in fact be at the core of the education of all future doctors. “The healthcare system is missing a huge population of people,” Pat says. “I’ve gotten more out of my service than I think the people I served have. They’ve been my teachers. They have taught me the most valuable lesson. They have taken the frills out of what it is to be a doctor. They have whittled the doctor-patient relationship down to its moral core, to its simplest terms, which is taking care of another human being.”