BY: CAROLINE ROLF
You won’t find Dr. Brett Feldman in the sterile confines of a doctor’s office or hospital, but you may see him searching for patients in the woods or riverbanks in his hometown of Allentown, Pennsylvania. He is on a mission, between bridges and soup kitchens, to spread the message that everybody matters. This is the concept behind Feldman’s street medicine program, part of Lehigh Valley Health Network. Feldman travels the streets to provide free on-site care and treats patients for diabetes, trench foot, mental illness, substance abuse and much more.
The 34-year-old physician assistant is one of the handfuls of practitioners of street medicine, a health care niche that sees patients receive the care they need in a comfortable place. He first became interested in street medicine as a student volunteering at a Chicago clinic. Feldman’s program includes multiple shelter and soup kitchen-based clinics, a street medicine team and a consult service available to patients in all locations. His team also provides free medications and laboratory tests.
Street medicine began more than 30 years ago as a noble act of a few doctors and nurses. They left the office to travel around the world, caring for the chronically homeless – a group that generally faces more health issues and dies far younger than the rest of a city’s population. It was not until recently that several street medicine programs have become affiliated with the healthcare system. Although the group of professionals practicing street medicine is small, this practice is predicted to become mainstream as hospitals and health care systems continue to cut costs.