The Summer Medical Institute (SMI) has successfully completed its 30th summer program of community health education from June 26-July 17! A joint project of Esperanza Health Center and Medical Campus Outreach of Philadelphia, this program has brought health screens and health information to underserved communities through the work of volunteer Christian healthcare students. These students receive community and medical training to primarily bring door-to-door health screens and health education to North Philadelphia neighborhoods. 

Almost thirty years ago during the summer of 1992, a group of medical students from the Medical College of Georgia headed north to Philadelphia to partner with Esperanza Health Center - which had just opened its doors three years earlier as a small clinic on North Fifth Street - for the very first Summer Medical Institute. In December 1991, Bill Pearson, who was director of the Medical Campus Outreach ministry based in Augusta, GA, came to Philadelphia to meet with Dr. Carolyn Klaus, Esperanza's founding physician. As told by Dr. Klaus in her book Prescription for Hope, Bill shared with Dr. Klaus his vision for medical students to come to Philadelphia to learn about how to integrate their faith and practice while serving alongside Esperanza's small team of physicians. As they talked, Dr. Klaus thought back to the summer 1991 measles outbreak in Philadelphia, and recent communications she had received from Philadelphia's Department of Public Health about the need to address the city's poor childhood immunization statistics. Then, as Dr. Klaus recounted in her book, "suddenly, the two images - medical students and measles - came together" and the idea crystallized: the students could do door-to-door immunizations in Esperanza's North Philadelphia community. Dr. Klaus, Esperanza social worker Marialena Gant, and Bill sat together that day and discussed details of what would need to be done to prepare for the students to do immunization outreach that summer. They weren't sure how everything would come together - but as Marialena Gant said: "I think God is in this. And if He is in this, then I guess I'd better be, too!"

God did provide the resources that were needed over the next few months - including vaccines from the health department, and housing for the students at the University of Pennsylvania - and during that first SMI in the summer of 1992, the students from the Medical College of Georgia knocked on over 2,400 doors and provided 1,743 immunizations to 737 children. That first SMI was the springboard for other SMIs in North Philadelphia during the 1990's. After the program was relocated to southern Texas over the following decade, SMI returned to again partner with Esperanza Health Center during the summer of 2010, and has continued every year since then.