Putting the Frame back on Service Medicine: The Tufts Sharewood Project

By Elena Hill


As pre-health students, we know how easy it is to get so caught up in micro-managing our schedules, focusing on course work, and planning internships that we forget what really impassioned us about working in the health professions in the first place. Between the rigorous academic requirements, the stress of applying to graduate schools and the need to find a job, it is easy to lose sight of the big picture: why do we really want to go into careers in the health care sector? For many Tufts Undergraduate students, Sharewood serves as a much-needed reminder about why we love community health.

The Sharewood Project is a free health care clinic run every Tuesday night at the First Church of Malden. The clinic was founded by Tufts Medical School students from the class of 1997. The name was originally a play on Robin Hood’s Sherwood Forest: the idea of providing medical care and resources to those without. It was later renamed “Sharewood” to emphasize the sharing—or mutual benefit—that the clinic offers both to its patients and to the medical students and undergraduate students, who gain hands-on experience in a clinical setting.

Since its founding more than a decade ago, the clinic has served over 1500 patients, primarily from the Greater Boston area. Over the years, the clinic has slowly gained funding and manpower to provide a plethora of useful services for its patients, including a general clinic, vaccinations, case management services, Mass Health enrollment, sexual health testing, nutrition counseling and, more recently, women’s health, dental and eye services.

For Tufts University undergraduate students, Sharewood represents a unique opportunity to implement what we have learned about in the classroom. Every week, undergraduate volunteers are responsible for checking in, triaging, and delivering patients to their rooms. In addition, the Sharewood undergraduate board leads publicity, fundraising, and public health committees that work to finance the clinic, publicize its services to local non-profits, build referral relationships with other community organizations, and implement public health initiatives for patients.

In the past year alone, undergraduates have worked in multiple capacities to further the aims of the clinic. The undergraduate publicity committee attended a number of local health fairs, soup kitchens, and other community organizations. They took blood pressures, distributed information about the clinic, and worked with numerous stakeholders to help increase community awareness and access to the clinic. The public health committee has implemented a new nutrition initiative every week where volunteers distribute nutrition information and educate patients during their time in the waiting room. Moreover, previous board president Daniel Slate began a project with the computer science department to design a new electronic medical records system for the clinic to help improve organization and efficiency.

Sharewood offers a unique opportunity for undergraduate students to implement the pillars of community health and service-based medicine that we have so dutifully studied in the classroom but may not have had the opportunity to apply in the real world. In this way, The Sharewood Project helps to reinvigorate pre-health students on their path to careers in the health professions, and reminds us what we love about the science and practice of community health.

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