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Dec. 14, 2017 - A Gift that Goes the Longest Mile
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Socks-2[1].jpgThird-year medical student Maelynn La talks with Rachel Smith at the Salvation Army's Family Haven facility in Mobile after distributing socks to her and her children. La received a grant that allowed the Student-Run Free Clinic to distribute 1,000 pairs of specially-made, durable socks to patients seen at the clinic.

One medical student at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine made it her mission to relieve the temperature-induced worries often experienced by patients seen at the USA Student-Run Free Clinic (SRFC) by providing them with the most needed, yet least donated, item this winter – socks.
Under the direction of third-year medical student Maelynn La, the USA SRFC received a grant from Bombas to distribute 1,000 pairs of specially-made, durable socks to patients seen at the clinic. The socks were distributed last week.

“Just this morning during our weekly housing community meeting we were asked what items our families were in need of as the cold weather approaches,” said Rachel Smith, a resident at the Salvation Army Family Haven and a SRFC patient. “Everyone said they were in desperate need of socks for their children, so this donation came at the perfect time.”

Smith – along with her 4-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son –  was the first patient to receive socks. “I am expecting my third child in just a few short weeks, and now I have a pair of socks to pack in my hospital bag,” she said. “To a lot of people, they are just socks. But for us, it is the little things that go the longest mile. I can’t express how thankful we are.”

The Salvation Army Family Haven is home to 15 displaced families and is described as an expanded service model designed with a goal of keeping homeless families together. Families who stay at the Family Haven receive three meals a day, their own room and bathroom and a place to do their laundry. Twice a month, SRFC student volunteers visit the residents to conduct health screenings and provide access to community health resources.

La, who previously served as the SRFC volunteer coordinator, said numerous patient interactions at the SRFC inspired her to look for sock companies who donate to charitable causes and ultimately apply for the grant. “When I asked several patients what resources they were most in need of, many mentioned socks, especially during the winter months,” she said. “One patient even said he would often share food or hygiene products with others, but he could not share socks since they are too difficult to come by.”

After discovering the need for socks, La said she found Bombas – an online sock company that works with shelters, nonprofits and organizations dedicated to helping the homeless, in-need and at-risk communities. “I saw that Bombas had a grant application, so I decided to apply for it,” La said. “Even though it was my first time applying for a grant I continued to move forward with it because I knew our patients were in desperate need and would be very thankful.”

The socks donated by Bombas to the USA SRFC specifically meet the needs of people who do not have the luxury of putting on a clean pair of socks every day. The socks contain an anti-microbial treatment, which decreases the need to be washed as often. They also have reinforced seams and darker colors, giving them greater durability with less visible wear.

According to Dr. Alison Rudd, assistant professor of nursing and operations director of the USA SRFC, the sock donation is much needed. “Many of our patients are homeless, work outside or simply do not have the funds to purchase new, clean clothing items,” she said. “Socks are a very practical item, especially for our diabetic patients as good, strong and clean footwear is essential to their health.”

Dr. Rudd, who also serves as assistant professor and assistant director of the USA Simulation Program, said the donation also represents the caliber of student volunteers at the SRFC. “The fact that Maelynn took initiative without any prompting from faculty is evidence of how much USA students believe in and support the greater Mobile community,” she said. “It also demonstrates what is most impressive about our clinic—that it is student-run and student-led.”

Located at the Salvation Army of Coastal Alabama in Mobile, the SRFC is comprised of student volunteers from the USA College of Medicine and other students from health professional programs at USA. The students see patients at the clinic, working in an inter-professional atmosphere that is unique not only to programs within USA, but also to schools throughout the country. The clinic aims to provide experiential learning for students to practice clinical and communication skills while improving sensitivity to vulnerable populations and promoting a life-long commitment to service.

Click here to learn more about the SRFC.

Click here to learn more about Bombas.

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