Nearly 400 Yale students, staff, and faculty, along with other community members, gathered under sunny skies in New Haven’s Edgewood Park on Sunday, October 8, for the ninth annual ¡ANDA! 5K fundraiser for the HAVEN Free Clinic–the student-run clinic that provides free primary care services to uninsured patients in Greater New Haven. Yale students organized the event not only to raise money to support HAVEN’s operations, but to foster community and increase awareness of HAVEN in the New Haven community. The 5K, held in person for the first time since 2019, raised $29,271, surpassing the $25,000 goal for the event.
Second-year MD student Victoria Kong–HAVEN’s finance & development director and the 5K planning lead–was driven to organize the fundraiser “to ensure that our clinic would have the funds to continue to serve the underserved in our community.” In promoting the event, the organizers shared that a $25 donation covers a complete blood test, $50 a hepatitis B vaccine, $165 a comprehensive patient visit, and $439 supports the care of one HAVEN patient for an entire year. Last year, more than 250 Yale health professional students collaborated to care for over 1,000 patients through more than 2,400 appointments at the clinic.
Passionate about providing access to health care
“As someone from a background where financial insecurity and language barriers made accessing health care difficult, the cause of providing medical care to the under-served is one that I hold deeply personally to my heart,” Kong explains. “Health and socioeconomic status are deeply intertwined and given that ill health easily becomes a barrier to actualizing future dreams.”
The event’s success would not have been possible, Kong says, without the support of HAVEN’s 18 Sustainability and Development Committee members, corporate and institutional sponsors (including Platinum-level sponsor M&T Bank), the rest of the HAVEN Board, and all the volunteers. “I am incredibly proud of the amazing work that has been done by the team and our shared commitment.”
HAVEN’s Executive Director Caroline Guiot, who is pursuing a joint MBA/MPH degree at Yale Schools of Management and Public Health, emphasizes that “without the clinic, many of our patients would not be able to access much needed valuable care.” Volunteering at HAVEN, Guiot shares, “has been the most meaningful experience from my time at Yale. The work that I do there directly impacts the lives of members of our community. Going forward, I will take this experience to inform the development of health care policy to better meet the needs of all Americans.”
Caring for diverse patients
Yale Nursing School MSN student Nicole Showalter, RN–public relations director of HAVEN and website and marketing coordinator for the 5K–says that volunteering at HAVEN has been an “incredible experience,” describing how “throughout my time at the clinic, and behind the scenes, I have had the pleasure of interacting with members of the New Haven and Yale communities, while also playing a small role in providing access to health care for those who may otherwise go without.” Showalter adds, “As a future primary care provider, the clinic experience has helped me grow in my ability to care for patients from a variety of backgrounds and allowed me to use the skills I’ve developed at Yale to pour back into the community that we are a part of.”
For over 20 years, Yale students from across the university have volunteered with HAVEN. This is reflected in the breadth of the 32 teams that participated in the 5K, including teams representing the Yale Schools of Medicine, Public Health, Nursing, and Management, as well as Yale Divinity School and Yale College, among others. This breadth also is reflected in the composition of the HAVEN leadership team, and the 5K organizers. In addition to Kong, Guiot, and Showalter, Yale College student Sorah Park is HAVEN’s co-director of IT and communications and was the 5K’s course logistics coordinator.
The campus-wide engagement is part of why Park enjoys her work with HAVEN. “HAVEN has been an invaluable opportunity for me to work with other people who are passionate about offering quality healthcare and making it accessible for low-income members of the community,” she explains. “I’ve learned a lot from these people and their passion in their work, and as an undergraduate, this has humbled me and also made me really appreciate and feel lucky about the great teams that I’ve had the opportunity to work with at HAVEN.”
Showalter makes a pitch for more student volunteers. “I would highly recommend volunteering at HAVEN, whether at the clinic, or behind the scenes in an operational role. We can always use more people who are passionate about serving others and investing in this community!”