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Hunger & Homelessness Auction raises over $15,000 for charities

Yale Med Auction-140
Photo by Harold Shapiro
Muriel Solberg, a first-year student, bids at the 26th annual Hunger & Homelessness Auction, while Richard Kayne, MD '76, looks on.

If you’re curious about the off-beat, even bizarre, skills that students bring to the School of Medicine, take a look at the offerings in the annual Hunger & Homelessness Auction.

In the silent auction, Cindy Du, a first-year, offered a private fire performance—she’ll twirl two blazing batons for you. In the live auction, second-year Julian Campillo offered to fly three people in his plane over the New York City skyline and take others for a demonstration of aerial acrobatics—including loop-de-loops—in the Connecticut skies.

And let’s not forget students’ talents for poking fun at themselves. Andrea Roberts, Tejas Sathe, and Matt Swallow invited “three individuals of the highest caliber” to join “Yale Med’s classiest bunch” for a “Romantic Taco Dinner” at the Taco Bell Cantina on Chapel Street. Unlike the chain eatery’s typical franchises, this upscale version has vegan fare, beer, and margaritas. This classy bunch is not kidding about “Black Tie Attire Requested.”

The auction in Café Med on the evening of December 6 was the 26th in an annual series that has raised money for New Haven organizations that provide services to those in need. This year’s auction raised $15,306 for four of the 28 organizations that applied for funding. Recipients include the Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center; Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS); Love Fed New Haven, which makes healthy and affordable food available through community gardens; and Youth Continuum, which serves homeless youth in the city.

Noting the auction’s 26-year tradition, organizer and second-year student Melanie Zheng said, “It’s a great event because it allows us to help the community we were meant to serve.”

Representatives of IRIS and the Hill Health Center thanked the crowd not only for the funding, but for the medical community’s other services. A refugee clinic provides health care to recent arrivals and the medical community has supported IRIS’s food pantry. Retired and physicians are part of the Hill Health Center’s “volunteer medical corps” that provides homeless outreach and staffs a sex worker clinic.

Phil Costello, who runs homeless programs at the Hill Health Center, said this year’s funding will help provide a space for the homeless to organize “so that they can help pull each other up, come together, and advocate as a group.”

Will Kneerim, who directs education and employment at IRIS, noting that the auction has provided thousands of dollars to IRIS in recent years, encouraged the future doctors and physician associates to help with their time and energy by volunteering to help refugees and to join in the annual 5K run/walk in the East Rock neighborhood on February 3.

The auction began at 5 p.m. with music from The Railboys, a jazz ensemble made up of medical students. At 6 p.m. William Stewart, PhD, who’s taught anatomy to generations of Yale medical students, took to the lectern as the first of several auctioneers. He would, he said, dispense with the kindness and understanding he displays in the anatomy lab. “My one job is to get into your wallets, so I am not going to show any mercy at all.”

As in past years, Stewart offered one of his signature bowties, provoking the traditional rivalry between students in the Physician Associate Program and medical students. The PA students won with a bid of $2,080.

Other items included dinner and wine tasting for six at the home of Dean Robert J. Alpern, MD, Ensign Professor of Medicine, which netted $260. A tour of the Harkness Bell Tower garnered $150. Auguste H. Fortin VI, MD, MPH, professor of medicine, offered a three-hour yacht cruise of New Haven Harbor for eight which raised $360.

Auctioneers included David Rosenthal, MD, assistant professor of medicine, and medical director of the Homeless Patient Aligned Care Team for the VA Connecticut Healthcare System; Jack Hughes, MD, professor of medicine, and associate director of the Program for Biomedical Ethics; and Andrew Koo, a fifth-year medical student.