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Through Habitat for Humanity, residents help residents build strong foundations

habitat for humanity members on a porch

Resident and attending physicians joined other volunteers in building two Habitat for Humanity houses on Sylvan Avenue in 2019. A grant from YNHH’s Medical Staff Fund will support additional Habitat builds and efforts to encourage more physician residents to get involved. 

Healthcare professionals understand that to provide the best care, they need to know more than their patients’ medical histories. They need to learn about their patients’ lives and the communities they come from. 

In 2019, a group of medical staff members involved in building Habitat for Humanity homes in Yale New Haven Hospital’s neighborhood invited physician residents with the hospital’s Graduate Medical Education (GME) program to join them. The residents worked side-by-side with dozens of other volunteers and the future homeowners. 

“We had representation from across GME, including individuals who had not worked together previously and who were not familiar with the neighborhood where we work,” said Michael Bennick, MD, who helped initiate the partnership between Habitat and YNHH and its medical staff in 2008. 

“Attendings, fellows and residents collaborated on various aspects of the project, forged friendships and felt like part of the community,” said Stephen Huot, MD, PhD, associate dean of Graduate Medical Education at YNHH and Yale School of Medicine.

Habitat is an international nonprofit organization that builds, renovates and repairs houses for families. Families purchase their homes through affordable monthly mortgage payments and invest hundreds of hours of their own labor, along with volunteers, to build the houses. 

Over the years, more than 500 YNHH employees and medical staff members have volunteered with Habitat for Humanity of Greater New Haven to build a dozen homes in the hospital’s neighborhoods. Grants from YNHH’s Medical Staff Fund have helped purchase supplies and other necessities for the builds.

The 2019 builds marked the first time GME residents were actively recruited to participate. While COVID-19 halted Habitat builds in 2020, a $10,000 grant from YNHH’s Medical Staff Fund awarded this past January will support future Habitat projects and more structured recruitment of GME volunteers. 

Amed Logroño, MD, currently a Global Health fellow in medicine, was a primary care internal medicine resident when he participated in the 2019 builds.

“Residents spend a lot of time training to understand complex disease and the ways to manage it,” he said. “Patients often tell us, in confidence, about the many other elements that impact their health, such as finances, access to healthy food and housing. As physicians, we may have very little impact on these elements, but opportunities like Habitat for Humanity allow us to contribute in a different way – a way that many of us feel will have an exponential effect in protecting our community’s health for years to come.”