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Doctors Without Walls-Santa Barbara Street Medicine Hosts Glow in the Park Launch Party

The second annual fundraiser supports the mission of providing free volunteer medical care to those most vulnerable and during times of disaster

From left, Michael Hammer, honorary event chair; Jason Prystowsky, M.D., MPH, FACEP, medical director of Doctors Without Walls-Santa Barbara Street Medicine; the Rev. Jon-Stephen Hedges, DWW-SBSM vice president; Maria Long, DWW-SBSM executive director; Paul Jaconette, MPH, DWW-SBSM board president; and Chris Lambert, M.D., chair of the Glow in the Park launch party.
From left, Michael Hammer, honorary event chair; Jason Prystowsky, M.D., MPH, FACEP, medical director of Doctors Without Walls-Santa Barbara Street Medicine; the Rev. Jon-Stephen Hedges, DWW-SBSM vice president; Maria Long, DWW-SBSM executive director; Paul Jaconette, MPH, DWW-SBSM board president; and Chris Lambert, M.D., chair of the Glow in the Park launch party. (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

[Click here for a related Noozhawk photo gallery.]

A select group of 40 guests and supporters of Doctors Without Walls-Santa Barbara Street Medicine gathered at The Hangar for a special launch party in anticipation of the second Glow in the Park to be held Sept. 19.

Last year's inaugural event took health care to new heights at Elings Park with the inaugural Glow in the Park Balloon Glow fundraiser benefiting the organization.

Founded in 2009, DWW-SBSM has been providing free volunteer medical care from Santa Barbara to Isla Vista, treating the area's most vulnerable year-round and during times of disaster, including the homeless, working poor and wherever the need lies.

The founders of DWW-SBSM originally went out on street rounds offering care and services. Now, the packs and logistics team manages and distributes medical supplies using two sets of large backpacks that are stocked with medications and equipment so clinicians can make the appropriate decisions onsite in Pershing Park or Alameda Park.

Each of the medical backpacks is stocked with supplies worth more than $1,000 that allows DWW to service the undeserved community at no cost to the patient.

"Every week, our dedicated volunteers take to the streets with our orange backpacks stocked with a complete pharmacy, wound care supplies and socks — known among the homeless as 'white gold' — which is everything we need to run a mobile clinic," said Jason Prystowsky, M.D., MPH, FACEP, DWW-SBSM medical director.

Today, a contingent of local volunteer doctors, nurses, social workers, students and community members work together, providing education, training and offering humanitarian aid from medical professionals and community leaders.

Morris Aguilar was initially drawn to the organization while he was a freshman at UCSB to assist in serving the underrepresented and underserved community of Santa Barbara.

“My role is to keep track of DWW’s medical inventory in addition to communicating with volunteer packs logisticians and clinicians,” Aguilar said. “And my responsibility is to make sure that the DWW clinics have access to medical supplies and knowledgeable volunteer packs logisticians.”

The services provided by the organization, including mobile clinics and backpacks, assisted 1,322 encounters with 997 returning clients and 325 new clients. These important services help greatly reduce emergency room visits and more effectively utilize community resources.

The Women’s Free Homeless Clinic provides laundry service, private showers, a healthy lunch, clothing donations and hygiene items, and offers a variety of different medical services available each week, including nursing, gynecology and podiatry. Clients are encouraged to establish a primary care physician, and embrace alternative medicine, including acupuncture and Qigong.

“We provide a women-only environment for women to feel safe and cared for,” DWW-SBSM co-coordinator Katie Dye said. “Many of our clients and friends have suffered from abuse and sexual trauma. The women’s clinic allows women to 'let loose' and de-stress, if only for a few hours during the week.”

An example of the care and long-lasting effect that DWW-SBSM has had on locals in need was summarized by Executive Director Maria Long, who spoke to the crowd about a client, Carl, who was symbolic of the growth and services of the organization.

“There is a certain magic that happens when you go to one of our clinics. I would describe for everyone involved that we bring out the best in ourselves in this work,” Long said. “Sometimes there are patients or those we serve that unexpectedly leave a mark on you heart, which we never forget — Carl was one of them.”

Carl was a Santa Barbara native who served in Vietnam and lived for a time in Corpus Christi, Texas, before his wife unexpectedly passed away, and his life began to unravel. He found a home in Alameda Park and began as a patient of DWW-SBSM in 2012. He saw 11 physicians during a three-year span in the park clinics, where he was seen by the clinic 39 times.

He was in and out of the hospital four times after developing an aneurysm that required surgery and would become infected each time he was released and would return to the park.

“Carl was always connecting dots,” Long said. “By connecting dots, we mean the relationships he forged between all the agencies that were working together on his care.”

Through the support system of Casa Esperanza, Artisan Court, Common Ground and Doctors Without Walls-Santa Barbara Street Medicine, his death was on his own terms.

“At the end of his life, this cantankerous, proud man of his word, while he didn’t do it intentionally, connected the dots and built a compassionate community team to surround him, creating the legacy of Carl, which we will never forget,” Long said. “And we are all better together, because of him.”

For more information on this year's event, click here. To view a video highlighting the inaugural event in 2014, click here.

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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