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First-year med students collect water for the homeless

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UNLV Medical Students, Salvation Army, Las Vegas homeless corridor, water drive
Maran Shaker

UNLV medical students (left to right) Johnnie Woodson, Faun Botor, Maran Shaker, Crystal Dickson, and Emily Guyaux

A group of local medical students is holding a water drive for people in the homeless corridor this weekend. They'll be collecting bottled water then donating it to the Salvation Army, which will distribute it to indigent men and women in Downtown Las Vegas.

"We didn't intend to do this specific event," says Maran Shaker, one of UNLV School of Medicine's first class of 60 students. "We started working with people in the community on a population health project to identify needs and deficiencies in that area, and we learned that there's been a shortage of water, which is a critical resource during the hot months."

In a roundtable Discussion with Desert Companion, the heads of Southern Nevada's three up-and-coming medical schools talked about ways that their students interact with and help people in the community, both to fulfill the schools' outreach missions and to learn about the populations that students will (hopefully) be serving as full-fledged physicians after graduation. Barbara Atkinson said students in UNLV's medical school, where she's founding dean, would train as EMTs during their first year.

"While they're doing that," she added, "they're going to be doing some public health. It sounds a lot like Renee's (Coffman, of Roseman University of Health Sciences), where they'll be in a community, looking for the things that make (it) unhealthy: How many kids graduate from high school? How many liquor stores are there compared to stores that sell vegetables? How many parks? ... We picked the 10 worst health-outcome ZIP codes in Las Vegas, and that's where they're going to be."

The UNLV medical students divided into teams and fanned out to identify opportunities to help. Shaker's team of five homed in on the water shortage, but has since gotten their entire class, as well as the faculty, involved in the effort.

Anyone interested in contributing water can do so at the UNLV School of Medicine, 1001 Shadow Lane, on Friday, August 18, 12-8 p.m. and Saturday, August 19, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

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