An inspiring story of how Queen’s medical, nursing, physical therapy and occupation therapy students united to help Kingston’s vulnerable populations
By: Valera Castanov, Meds '22
Introduction to KHealth
When the COVID-19 pandemic first began, KHealth was among the few student organizations at Queen’s University that was able to rapidly respond and launch several initiatives to help Kingston’s vulnerable populations. KHealth started the Student-run Community Support Program, hosted “Call Your First Patient” Day and launched an emergency fundraiser for the Lionhearts Inc - a group that helps feed those in need in our community - raising over $2.4 thousand dollars.
How did KHealth start and how did this organization end up at the forefront of helping our community during these difficult times?
It all started with the author’s original idea of launching a student-run clinic in Kingston to help improve healthcare access to all residents of the greater Kingston area – particularly to the marginalized populations, and those without OHIP cards, permanent place of residence, official immigration status or with other limitations. Please see Queens Medical Review’s Issue 13.1 - Growth for a more detailed discussion. However, due to several logistical, financial, and legal concerns launching this clinic was not possible.
When one door closes, another opens
While working towards establishing a student-run clinic, the author was able to assemble executive and volunteer teams of interprofessional health students, gather community support and build close relationships with the administration. When the original idea did not work out, the author worked with all parties to develop a new vision and find a way forward to help Kingston’s vulnerable and underserved populations. This is when the idea of KHealth – Kingston’s Community Health Initiative was born.
KHealth is the first student-led interprofessional community health initiative in Kingston, Ontario, where students from programs in medicine, nursing, physical and occupational therapy work together to improve the health and wellbeing of the local community. It is also the Class Project of Queen’s Medicine class of 2022! KHealth organization is actively developing educational and service-learning components, which are aimed to introduce students to working with vulnerable and underserved populations in an interprofessional community health setting. The organization also strives to combine theory and experiential learning to provide an enriching, immersive and interactive experience to students.
Core values of KHealth are equity, diversity, and inclusivity. The organization aims to familiarize students to concepts of equity in healthcare and emphasize the crucial role of the social determinants on health and wellbeing. A large focus of KHealth is also on diversity and inclusivity. To date, KHealth has 14 executive team members and over 40 volunteers – each from diverse health programs, with diverse socioeconomic and sociocultural backgrounds – with a common aim to serve and be inclusive of everyone in the community regardless of their gender, age, race, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or overall health status.
Overall, KHealth is positioned in a unique and fortunate position to be able to act as a liaison between the students in the Faculty of Health Sciences and the community and can leverage its volunteers and resources in the time of need. Consequently, when the COVID-19 pandemic first began, KHealth was able to respond quickly and launch several initiatives to help Kingston’s vulnerable populations.
Please take a moment to read about some of KHealth’s COVID-19 initiatives below.
KHealth’s Student-run Community Support Program
Shortly after the beginning of the COVID-19, the KHealth’s Student-run Community Support Program (SCSP) was spearheaded by Queen’s medical students: Jenn Campbell, Vanessa Giuliano, Nia King, Ruchit Patel, Daniel Shi and the author, in partnership with students of the schools of Nursing (Michaela Patterson and Cici Siju), Physical Therapy (Kathryn McGuire and Justin Achat), Occupational Therapy (Grace Manalili and Theresa Fraser) and Medicine (Adam Gabara and Minnie Fu).
The program involves partnering a student, from the Faculty of Health Sciences, with an elderly person and/or a member of a vulnerable population to assist them during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. The SCSP offers the following two services: 1. weekly check-ins via phone or video calls for social comfort; and 2. assistance with grocery shopping and delivery, medication pick-ups and/or minor tasks (e.g. picking-up laundry). All of KHealth’s volunteers have been instructed to follow strict COVID-19 precautions.
Since the inception of the program, there have been 43 volunteer sign-ups and numerous requests for services from the community. The program was advertised in retirement homes, community groups, community health clinics and throughout the Faculty of Health Sciences. To date, SCSP volunteers have completed numerous grocery deliveries, phone calls and laundry pick-ups and drop-offs! The Kingston community has been overwhelmingly receptive to this program. Furthermore, KHealth was invited to present this initiative at the Ontario Medical Students Association’s COVID-19 Forum on Saturday, April 11th to partake in knowledge sharing with other medical schools in Ontario. It is projected that SCSP will continue its operations beyond COVID-19.
“Call Your First Patient” Day
COVID19 is an especially challenging time for seniors and vulnerable populations, and our First Patients, for the most part, belong to one or both of these groups. Consequently, KHealth hosted an inaugural “Call Your First Patient” Day on Saturday, April 4th, to encourage medical students to call their First Patients to inquire about their health and wellbeing, and ask whether they required any help or assistance of any kind.
KHealth received a lot of positive feedback from both the participants and the First Patients. Some First Patients received numerous phone calls from different cohorts of medical students, one quoting that “[he] did not feel this popular in a while, it feels great”. Several First Patients also signed up for KHealth’s SCSP services.
Overall, after having received a lot of positive feedback, KHealth will be suggesting to the Undergraduate Medical Education (UGME) to make “Call Your First Patient” Day a yearly event.
Supporting Lionhearts Inc
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the most vulnerable members of our Kingston community are disproportionately impacted. Several community organizations have significantly reduced their hours of operation or have been forced to close. In particular, this state of emergency severely exacerbated the food insecurity issues vulnerable populations already face.
Among the organizations that are still operating during this difficult time is Lionhearts Inc. Every day, Lionhearts sets-up two mobile command centres, one in the McBurney Park (30 Alma St) and the other at the Weller Clinic (263 Weller Ave), and distributes nutritious meals and beverages to Kingston’s marginalized populations. Lionhearts also supplies warm clothing, personal toiletries, and fresh socks/towels. Most importantly, they provide a point of entry for those in need to access other emergency services. Lionhearts’ volunteers are some of the many heroes at the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, due to the increased demand (over 240 people per day), as a result of closures in the Kingston community, Lionhearts needed help to continue their ground-breaking work.
As KHealth believes in Lionhearts’ courageous efforts, a fundraiser was launched to provide financial contributions to support their ongoing projects. Within the first 4 days, KHealth was able to raise a total of $2,464! The fundraiser is ongoing, so please consider making a donation to support the Lionheats’ COVID-19 initiative.
KHealth is an inspiring story of how interprofessional collaboration can do a lot of good for the community. It provides an impetus to develop and support interprofessional education programs across all four schools in the Faculty of Health Sciences. KHealth proposes to collaborate with the Interprofessional Education Committee (IPEC) on the development of such programs.
The author would like to thank Canadian Federation of Medical Students (CFMS) for providing KHealth with the Community-Care Initiative Grant. Also, the author would like to extend sincere gratitude to the Ontario Medical Students Association (OMSA) for their COVID-19 Initiative Fund. Lastly, a huge thank you to The Aesculapian Society (AS) at Queen’s School of Medicine for their continuous logistical and monetary support. Without the help from all of these organizations, KHealth’s efforts would not have been possible.
For more information:
General information: email@example.com
KHealth’s SCP: firstname.lastname@example.org
Emergency Services and Food/Meal Programs Available in Kingston and Frontenac
KHealth’s Student-run Community Support Program: Offering check-ins via phone/video call, grocery/pharmacy/foodbank delivery, and minor errands.
Leave message at 613-817-7787 or email email@example.com
263 Weller Ave. Take-home meals.
30 Alma Street. Take-home meals.
Monday – Sunday, 5 – 6 p.m.
Monday – Sunday, 6 – 7 p.m.
Lunch by George: 129 Wellington St. Hot take-home meals or bag lunches.
Monday – Friday,
11 – 11:30 a.m.
Martha’s Table: 629 Princess St. Providing take away hot meals.
Monday – Sunday,
11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Mutual Aid Katarokwi: Offering check-ins, grocery/pharmacy/foodbank box delivery.
Leave message at 613-665-2959 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
North Frontenac Food Bank: 14152 Road 38, Sharbot Lake
Call 613-532-8855 for appointment.
Partners in Mission Food Bank: 140 Hickson Ave.
Please call 613-384-4534 for appointment. No walk-in service.
Monday – Friday
8:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. and 1 – 4 p.m.
Salvation Army: 342 Patrick St. Take-away prepared food baskets.
Monday – Friday,
11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
South Frontenac Community Services/Sydenham Food Bank: Frozen meals available for delivery daily. Hot meals delivered Tuesday and Thursday. Delivery only to South Frontenac/rural Kingston. 613-376-6477
St. Mary’s Cathedral: 260 Brock St. Providing takeaway light food/snacks.
Monday – Friday,
1 p.m. – 4 p.m.
St. Vincent de Paul: 85 Stephen St. Providing bag lunches.
Food Pantry available by appointment
Monday – Friday,
10:30 a.m. – 12 p.m.
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