Student Extern Strengthens Commitment to Detroit’s Homeless

August 2, 2021 — During the month of May, Anneliese Petersen—a rising fourth-year student at Wayne State University School of Medicine—took part in Family Medicine Foundation of Michigan’s 2021 clinical externship funded jointly by the American Academy of Family Physicians Foundation.

Each year, through a competitive application process, Family Medicine Foundation of Michigan selects a student attending one of the state’s medical schools to participate in the summer externship program.

“Year after year, we get to watch a student explore the specialty and, as a result, develop an even deeper commitment to pursuing a family medicine career than they had held prior to the externship,” said Karlene Ketola, MSA, CAE, chief executive officer of Michigan Academy of Family Physicians and executive vice president of its philanthropic arm, Family Medicine Foundation of Michigan.

Over the course of her 4.5-week externship, Anneliese dedicated her time to Street Medicine Detroit, a non-profit organization affiliated with Wayne State University, which provides medical care and supportive services to those experiencing homelessness in Detroit.

“I find that Street Medicine embodies the core of family medicine, as we bring medical care out to meet our patients where they are, eliminating barriers and bridging the gap that exists between the medical and homeless communities,” she said.

Anneliese has been involved in the organization’s leadership throughout her time in medical school. She currently serves as president, working under the mentorship of faculty advisor and medical director, Richard Bryce DO.

During her externship, Anneliese helped implement many needed changes within the Street Medicine Detroit structure as it bounced back from a COVID-induced pause, she shared. This included training the new board members to lead their medical student peers in care alongside a preceptor. She also was able to get the inpatient consult up and running with the new third-year students.

“The consult service is a unique part of Street Medicine, allowing us to increase our continuity of care as we see our patients in the hospital and can then provide follow-up care on the street after discharge. Working with the consult service has opened my eyes to the many barriers that those experiencing homelessness face following a hospital admission. It has impacted the care that I provide, and I hope that I will be a physician who can work to ensure my patients have access to the medications, supportive services, and follow-up care they need after a serious illness,” said Anneliese.

Street Medicine Detroit was founded in 2012 by then Wayne State University School of Medicine student, Jonathan Wong. Now a family medicine resident at the University of Toronto, Dr. Wong still remains heavily involved with the organization as its chair of the Board of Directors.

Upon reflecting on her externship experience, Anneliese shared that she underwent a great deal of personal growth while engaging in care on the streets of Detroit and in shelters.

“I had the privilege of listening to stories, sharing jokes, joining in concerns, and truly building friendships with those on the street. This month reminded me of why I am pursuing medicine, and why I have chosen family practice,” said Anneliese.

Anneliese is a rising star in family medicine, shared Dr. Bryce.

"Her dedication and compassion are second to none. I thoroughly enjoyed working with her. Her exceptional care given to those facing homelessness inspires me to remember the most important aspects of practicing family medicine," he said.

Medical student members of Michigan Academy of Family Physicians are eligible to apply for the annual externship. Applications for the 2022 experience are due by April 1 at mafp.com/membership/medical-students/externships.