For 20 years, the Community Health Advancement Program (CHAP) has drawn thousands of medical and health science students into leading and participating in volunteer service, touching the lives of more than 10,000 individuals. Its students and programs demonstrate the quiet dedication of many students seeking to address identifiable unmet needs in local underserved communities.
The first CHAP project was the Saturday Clinic at Holly Park Community Health Center, located in a low-income housing project in Seattle. CHAP was born from the match between the needs of the Health Center, its patients and the aspirations of medical students wanting to serve. It provided the community with the only local weekend clinic and provided the students an avenue for living their values. It provided volunteer faculty and attending physicians with a focus for teaching community-oriented primary care, leadership skills and cross-cultural medicine.
By the late 1980's, CHAP consisted of the Saturday Clinic and Brown Bag Community Health Seminars. Each year there were 10 leaders who administered the projects and over 200 volunteers. The modest needs for funding were raised by the students. In the 1990's, CHAP projects expanded to include, not only the Saturday clinic, but a flu shot clinic for elderly, a pre-sports physical clinic for low-income teen athletes, a cooking project for The Seattle Chicken Soup Brigade, which provides food for home-bound persons with HIV/AIDS, a dermatology clinic for the homeless in a downtown shelter, a diabetic education and foot care project and an adolescent mentoring and health promotion project. The Saturday Clinic and the Chicken Soup Brigade Cooking Project ended only when the co-sponsoring agencies became unable to provide the needed services.
CHAP projects share six tenets. First, projects require highly interested students and there is no credit or stipend for participating. Second, projects develop from unmet needs defined by the community; there would be no dermatology care for the sheltered homeless, nor mentoring for teens if CHAP were not providing the service. Third, students must develop tools and processes to implement, support, evaluate and modify projects. Funds are raised by the students. Fourth, projects link with ongoing services within the community. Fifth, projects must provide a vehicle for students to learn as they serve. CHAP is sponsored by the University of Washington Department of Family Medicine, which provides training and backup for the students. Sixth, all programs must be evaluated regularly.
The story of CHAP's growth is the story of quality volunteer service that emerges when care is taken to have a community identify its needs and to realistically develop a program which volunteers can implement, administer and continuously staff. While these are health students, they have not only been providing medical service, they teach, mentor, tutor, cook, fund raise, and do needs assessments.
"To recognize CHAP with this award would be to recognize three notable groups: the communities who have welcomed CHAP and identified needs which CHAP could meet, the community agencies who have partnered with CHAP students to better meet the needs of the communities they serve, and thousands of volunteer who have kept CHAP alive these 20 years as a vehicle for communities and students alike," remarked Sharon Dobie, Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, University of Washington.