By Jason Clement
“We wanted to do something on foot care because foot injuries, infections and ailments seem to be the number one reason for ER visits among the homeless population,” says Saman Ahmad, the founder of Health and Hygiene for the Homeless, of the student club’s recent initiative to collect socks to donate to local homeless shelters. “The shelters tell us that they never have enough socks!” The club surpassed its goal of collecting 300 pairs of socks, which will be donated to Welcome Hall Men’s Mission and Our 2nd Home Shelter.
Health and Hygiene for the Homeless, a McGill Medical Student Society club that currently counts between 50-60 students as members, was launched officially in September 2013, though Saman, now in her second year of medical school at McGill had been thinking about the idea since 2012. “During Med-P was the first time that I started coming downtown every day,” she says. “And that’s when it really hit me, seeing all of the homeless people around Montreal – wow these people are part of our society and yet they are just out there on the streets and marginalized. It made me want to do something.”
Wanting to make an ongoing and positive difference in the lives of Montreal’s homeless while simultaneously exposing medical students to the issues faced by homeless people, Saman sees the club eventually holding student-run clinics and trying to address issues like access to care. To reach that point properly, and sustainably, Saman and the club’s dedicated VPs want to take it one step at a time, beginning with the development of an education program being developed as workshops by sub groups within the club on topics ranging from bed bugs to foot care.
Working with Welcome Hall Men’s Mission and Maison du Père, they hope to begin delivering the workshops in early 2015. Saman says that their goals are “not to be imposing something on them. We want them make their health and hygiene a priority for themselves.”
Saman and the club have begun to receive recognition for their efforts. As a result of starting the club, Saman recently received the 2014 Medical Student Leadership award, sponsored by former Canadian Space Agency astronaut and current Southlake Regional Health Centre CEO, Dr. Dave Williams, BSc’76, MDCM/MSc’83, DSc’07. And last May, Health and Hygiene for the Homeless was voted top project at the medical student event, SHOUT, an award which brings additional funding to the club.
To learn more about Health and Hygiene for Homeless, visit their Facebook page.