Coronado Medical Professionals Take Their Expertise To The Streets Across The Bridge - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Coronado Island News

Coronado Medical Professionals Take Their Expertise To The Streets Across The Bridge

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Posted: Friday, August 23, 2019 2:07 pm

On a clear day this past May, Lisa Wastila and a crew of five—a nurse, two social workers, and an outreach person—wandered into Balboa Park. With them, they brought stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs and basic first aid. People peered at them from afar: hesitant, but inquisitive. San Diego Street Medicine Alliance, in partnership with Point Loma Nazarene University and Father Joe’s Villages, organized “House Calls for the Homeless,” for the first time this May. In the project, Wastila, a Coronado local and Clinical Professor of Medicine at UCSD, and 30 others went out offering care to the homeless population there. Equipped with a limited pharmacy in a mobile van ran by Father Joe’s, they attended to anyone in the park who needed help. It was a huge success.

“We were pleasantly surprised to find out was that as we approached people, the vast majority were very receptive.” Wastila said.

Wastila joined “House Calls for the Homeless” through her connection to Father Joe’s—a multi-faceted health center and shelter for the homeless of San Diego—where she’s partnered for 15 years. Working with underserved populations has always been a passion for Wastila. After completing her undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley, where she met her husband and Coronado local Michael Wastila, she went on to medical school and did a residency at Stanford. One summer she received a grant to travel to Washington D.C. to work in local clinics and help the underserved in the Southeast of the city. Now, through a partnership with UCSD, Wastila and others train residents at Father Joe’s. She loves it. She’ll even be taking over for Father Joe’s nurse practitioner to do more monthly street visits starting this month.

But she’s not the only Coronodan using their professional expertise to aid the homeless community across the bridge. Chris Searles, a fellow Clinical Professor at UCSD, has worked with Wastila for years. He says it’s a pleasure to be able to work with another professional who cares so much about improving medical care for the underserved. For Searles, homeless care and medicine was at the core of his education. He’s been with Father Joe’s on and off for years—even completing a 5-year program on-site through UCSD’s specialized Family Medicine and Psychiatry training program. Later, in 2007, he served as the program’s co-director. He’s even managed Father Joe’s mobile clinic. He says every time he comes back, he feels at home. “It’s hard to find a place where you can have that kind of impact on somebody else.” Searles says.

Coronado is fortunate in that we don’t have a major homelessness issue. But in San Diego, over 8,000 people sleep on the streets or in shelters each night, according to a 2019 report from the Regional Task Force on the Homeless. But Wastila says there are so many ways to help. Together with her family, she puts together care packages with her kids—t-shirts, toothbrushes, toothpaste, non-perishable food items and more—and delivers them to homeless individuals across the bridge. Both Wastila and Searles agree that homelessness, and helping the underserved, is an important topic of conversation in a resource-rich community like Coronado. “Nobody lives in a vacuum,” Searles says, “they literally are our neighbors, they’re right there. Even though we don’t have a large homeless population here, any time that we can take the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life who’s that close to us, we should take it.”

And on the streets, where a simple cut can easily flare into an unwieldy infection, this kind of work has the power to insight significant change. One recipient of Wastila’s care from her May street visit, a man named “Dollar Bill,” was experiencing a rash on his elbows and knees. In their short check-up, Wastila was able to diagnosis him with psoriasis and give him a steroid cream from Father Joe’s mobile pharmacy. He reveled in the relief, saying that what they were doing was “ a beautiful thing.”

“If you just see that look in their eyes and you know you’re making a difference for that person,” Wastila smiled, “that just makes my whole job worth it.”

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