Nurse Gabrielle Johnson grabs a backpack bursting with medical supplies from the backseat of her Chevy Colorado and jogs across under a freeway overpass in Boyle Heights to see her first patient. Brett Feldman, a physician assistant, is right alongside her.
“Hey Bill!” Johnson called out toward a group of tents on the left side of the road. They find Bill, 49, sitting in a chair between two tents. It’s loud — the noise of thousands of cars careening below.
Feldman and Johnson are part of the Keck School of Medicine of USC’s Street Medicine team. Housed within the Department of Family Medicine, the team’s sole job is to serve people living on the streets — whether that’s providing care, which they do daily, or consulting as specialists at USC’s hospitals.
The program is just over a year old, but it speaks to the need in Los Angeles and the state: There are 45,000 unsheltered homeless people in Los Angeles County alone. Although there are similar programs across the state and U.S. — usually run out of clinics — USC’s Street Medicine team is unique in that it wasn’t started with grant funding and has dedicated daily staff. That, Feldman said, speaks to the school’s commitment to the work.
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