Transformative Education
for Health Professionals

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Street Medicine, Caring for Homeless Patients Where Are; The Physician Assistant Role

Joel Hunt MPAS, PA-C, Nadia Cobb MS, PA-C

Street Medicine is defined as delivering health care to people directly where they are and meeting them in their reality.  Joel Hunt (link to video), a physician assistant recognized early in his career with the Fourth Street Clinic in Salt Lake City, Utah, that some of the most at risk patients were not accessing care in the clinic. Many of these patients suffer from uncontrolled mental health diagnosis, complex medical comorbidities, as well as long histories of abuse. Salt Lake City has been recognized globally for its' community approach in the care of the homeless population. Joels' work was recognized in a TEDx SaltLakeCity presentation in 2014. 

Full project description: 


In Salt Lake City, Utah street medicine brings health care services to people experiencing homelessness.   Based through the Fourth Street Clinic, which has been serving the homeless patient population in Salt Lake City since 1988, this outreach based component was led by Joel Hunt. Since 2010 this organization has  been providing basic primary health care, medicines, life sustaining essentials like food and clothing, as well as community partners who specialize in housing and emergency services to the patients where they are outside of the clinic structture.  The focus of this work is to increase access by building trust and giving dignity to the patients, ultimately having them enter the Homeless Clinic system. The belief in the World Health Organization definition of health: a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity drives this work.

The team delivering this care consists of 1 physician assistant, 1 outreach services worker, and 1 medical assistant/case manager. The physician assistant profession started in response to the need for more primary health care providers in the late 1960's. There are now more than 80,000 physician assistants caring for patients in the US. The health care workforce works in teams to increase access to care. Many, like Joel, working to serve the underserved and the communities that they live in. 

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