Health and Medical Sciences 98/198: The Suitcase Clinic
A Service Learning Course
Health and Medical Science 98/198 is a 2-unit Pass/Not Pass course offered Thursdays from 5:00 – 7:00 PM every fall and spring semester to undergraduate students at the University of California, Berkeley. Undergraduate students facilitate this course as both Class Coordinators and Undergraduate Student Instructors (UGSIs). HMS 98/198 is not a DeCal course, but rather is affiliated with the Health and Medical Sciences Division of UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health. Undergraduate students interested in volunteering with the Suitcase Clinic during the fall and spring semesters of the academic year must first take this course, which combines community service with classroom learning. Both this class and the Suitcase Clinic as a whole are intended for students with an interest in public health and social welfare, not those interested in receiving extensive clinical exposure in preparation for medical school.
Students interested in working directly with the homeless population and providing health and social services to the underserved are our ideal applicants. This course will help students develop basic skills in health care and social work, learn about community resources and government programs, and gain a greater awareness about issues of homelessness, poverty, and health. Students who enroll in the course serve as volunteer caseworkers at one or more of the Suitcase Clinic’s drop-in centers. After completing the course and concurrent volunteer commitment with the Suitcase Clinic, students have the opportunity to continue their involvement within our organization by remaining as dedicated volunteers at our drop-in centers, running for staff positions on our Planning Committee, or becoming involved as medical assistants at one of several allied community health care clinics in the city of Berkeley.
Incoming students will be selected based on their answers to an application, which will be handed out on the first day of class. It will be due by 4:00 PM on the following Wednesday in 570 University Hall. Course entry codes are passed out on the second week of classes after your application has been reviewed and you have been accepted into the course. Freshmen and sophomores (those with less than 60 units) enroll in HMS 98, while juniors and seniors (those with more than 60 units) enroll in HMS 198. Students enrolled in HMS 98 participate in the same classroom as those in HMS 198, receive the same training, and attend the same lectures.
Due to space constraints, we are unable to accept auditors into the class, nor can we admit students who just want to volunteer without receiving units. However, there are still other ways to get involved with the Suitcase Clinic. If you are unable to take this course, speak with one of the Class Coordinators for more information about additional volunteer opportunities, such as attending our Summer Training (which is open to everyone, not just UC Berkeley undergraduate students), volunteering as a service provider at one of our three drop-in centers, or participating in SHARE.
During the semester, the class is divided into seven smaller discussion and project groups. As a general practice, every class will devote the latter 30-45 minutes to small group time. During this time you will discuss weekly topics, establish tangible connections between class material and the drop-in center caseworking experience, discuss concerns and experiences within the Suitcase Clinic, and work on group projects. These group projects further assist the population served by the Suitcase Clinic in a variety of ways. Students will specify their small group preferences on their application. If you would like more information, or have any questions regarding any of the group projects, please contact the facilitators who are connected to the individual projects before you submit your application. Keep in mind that these are your projects, so they are all very flexible in meeting the ingenuity and unique composition of your small group.
The first few weeks of the course focus on educating and training undergraduate caseworkers for their volunteer work within the Suitcase Clinic. The remaining weeks provide students with a fundamental understanding of the issues faced by homeless people and low-income individuals. In addition, these later weeks revisit and refine the skills learned within the first portion of the class.
- Students are allowed a maximum of two unexcused class absences before receiving a grade of Not Pass. You are also allowed one excused absence in case of conflicts with midterms in other courses, documented medical emergencies, and valid personal emergencies. Students must submit proof of absence to the class coordinator in charge of attendance in a timely manner. You must be present for the entire class period; leaving class early and unexcused will be considered an absence. Students must attend each of the entire first six weeks of this course in order to remain enrolled, as the most sensitive and important lessons are given during this time;
- Attendance at the General Clinic tour is mandatory for all students in order to remain enrolled in this course. General Clinic volunteers must shadow one time at the General Clinic before the midterm is administered. They must casework at the General Clinic drop-in center at least three times, and at another drop-in center at least once, within the semester;
- Youth Clinic volunteers must first attend the Youth Clinic tour before being eligible to volunteer there. They must casework at the Youth Clinic drop-in center at least three times, and at another drop-in center at least once, within the semester;
- Women’s Clinic volunteers must first attend the Women’s Clinic tour before being eligible to volunteer there. They must casework at the Women’s Clinic drop-in center at least three times, and at another drop-in center at least once, within the semester;
- In an effort to ensure that people don’t leave their caseworking dates until the last minute, and to ensure an even flow of volunteers at our drop-in centers, it is required that you complete your first, second, third and fourth case working days according to a staggered schedule;
- All students must attend one Planning Committee meeting and one SHARE meeting before the midterm is administered. The Planning Committee meets every Wednesday. SHARE meets on the 3rd floor of the General Clinic (First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, 2407 Dana Street at Haste Street, Berkeley, CA 94704-2207) every Tuesday from 7:30 – 9:00 PM.
- Weekly readings, which will be assigned a week prior to the date of class discussion. You will be expected to have read the course materials for each section before the class period during which that topic will be discussed. You are required to bring the course reader to class each week, as much of our discussion will be based upon the articles therein. The course reader will be available at University Copy Service on the third week of instruction. University Copy Service is located at 2425 Channing Way, Berkeley, CA 94704, and can be reached via phone at (510) 549-2335;
- A midterm. It will be 50% written, 50% oral. Students must pass the midterm to remain enrolled within the course. More details will be given out during the first six weeks of the class. After the completion of the midterm, students may begin serving as caseworkers at the drop-in center of their choice;
- The completion each week of a half-page reflection paper. This paper will cover the readings for that week, in addition to your caseworking experience at a drop-in center on that Monday or Tuesday if applicable. This will be submitted in both physical and electronic form to your small group’s Undergraduate Student Instructor (UGSI);
- The completion and presentation to the entire class of your small group project;
- A final paper covering a specific topic which we have covered during the course, submitted in both physical and electronic form to your small group’s Undergraduate Student Instructor (UGSI).
Final Paper Guidelines
- Minimum of four pages, double-spaced, one-inch margins, 12 pt. Times New Roman font;
- Answer all aspects of the topic you choose;
- Cite all sources you use, including the reader. Bibliography optional;
- It is meant to be both factual and personal.
Listed below are several potential topics for you to choose from when writing your final paper. Please think about your topic and have it approved by your UGSI beforehand.
- Pick a referral for the use of the homeless and undergo the process of obtaining that referral – what is the experience really like? Is it efficient? How long does it take to obtain the service? What kinds of changes can be made to improve the experience?
- Create a policy proposal or choose one already in existence about homelessness and write about its effectiveness and its effects on the homeless community and/or homeless individuals. How realistic is it? Which parties do you have to keep in mind when writing this proposal?
- Choose any major topic in the reader (i.e. mental illness, civil rights) and write about the major issue in relation to homelessness. Why is it an important one to discuss? What facts can you find? How can you address the issue to make positive changes?
- As we are always looking to improve the course reader. Find two articles in regards to any of the major topics of the reader, and write a two-page reflection on each article. Include why you felt the article is important, and why it may have helped you if it had been in the reader.
- Free topic. Make sure it is relevant to this class and the topics we discuss, and please get it approved by your UGSI ahead of time.