Housing is Health Care
While serving as a volunteer health care provider at one of San Francisco’s homeless shelters, medical student Abdikarin Abdullahi approached two patients waiting together for triage.
“I don’t need no doctor,” he remembers one of them saying. “If you want to give me health care, if you want to help, I need some [expletive] housing. I’ve been here for 10 years.”
As the son of refugees from Somalia, Abdullahi’s family relied on a wide array of safety net programs to make ends meet. His desire to increase access to care for similarly struggling communities, like the inhabitants at this San Francisco shelter, prompted him to pursue medical school.
“I’m reminded daily that housing is health care, and that addressing inequities must be at the forefront of all conversations about promoting health.”
But throughout his training, he says, it’s become clear that social determinants like housing, education, and employment are more impactful than clinical care for long-term health outcomes. He knew he would have to look elsewhere to develop the skillset to tackle these issues.
In his MPH program, Abdullahi plans to concentrate on Health Policy and Systems as well as earn a certificate in Health Disparities and Inequalities.
“When I walk to school in San Francisco, I see people living in their cars,” Abdullahi says. “I’m reminded daily that housing is health care, and that addressing inequities must be at the forefront of all conversations about promoting health.”
BS, Human Biology, University of California, San Diego, 2017; Medical student, University of California, San Francisco, Graduation anticipated 2022