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IN FOCUS


Reinking is not alone is his


service to those who lack access to medical care. His wife—and fellow Stritch alum—Dr. Melissa Ferguson (MD ’10), is involved in her husband’s work and in her own work treats other under- served populations in Northern California. She is a primary care doctor for Contra Costa County Health Services, which provides care to many people on federal or state health care programs. “We see our full-time jobs not


as ‘jobs,’ but as service to oth- ers,” said Ferguson. “For most doctors, but especially those that work with vulnerable populations, there is always something more that can be done for your patients. We both work with only under- served populations, so serving home-cooked meals to Jay’s home- less patients for Thanksgiving or going to rallies to advocate for my county patients—to us it is just an extension of our jobs.” Reinking and Ferguson met as


Stritch students and spent many nights studying together and dis- cussing their hopes for the future. Both shared a similar passion for caring for underserved popula- tions, which took them on simi- lar career paths. After graduation, Ferguson completed her residency at Contra Costa Family Medicine and then chose to stay on full-time, eventually taking on a leadership and recruitment role in the resi- dency program. Reinking first started provid-


ing health care for people expe- riencing homelessness through a Schweitzer Fellowship. The fel- lowship allowed him to develop a program that helped people who had recently been discharged from Interfaith House (now called The Boulevard), which helps homeless people who are recovering from hospital stays. The program coor- dinated follow-up medical visits


34 LOYOLA UNIVERSITY CHICAGO


and health education for people while they were still staying with Interfaith House. Now his work is what’s known


as street medicine—bring- ing health care to people who are living and sleeping on the streets using walking teams, medical vans, and mobile clin- ics. Homeless people have many barriers when it comes to getting adequate health care, including no insurance, lack of transporta- tion, poor health education, lack of flexible scheduling, and shame, among others. Doctors going out to where these patients are may be the only way they will ever get any kind of medical care. Reinking and his fellow team


members walk around homeless tent camps and inquire about who needs any medical attention, slowly building trust with patients along the way. “Illness causes and maintains homelessness,” said Reinking. “What we do to help peo- ple is mostly by gaining their trust. Whether that’s starting off with a conversation about the Raiders, or reliably showing up at the same time every week, whatever it takes.” Both Reinking and Ferguson


feel that their time at Loyola has shaped the work they are doing today. “A large part of why I chose to come to Stritch was because of the social justice mission,” said Ferguson. “Learning the medical knowledge was obviously import- ant, but just as important was sur- rounding myself with like-minded individuals committed to serving marginalized populations.” Reinking often thinks back to


the words on the atrium wall at Stritch, “I was ill and you cared for me,” for inspiration. “We want to care for people first, not necessarily cure them,” he said. “That always stuck with me, and still does in what I’m doing every day out in Oakland.”—Erinn Connor


SERVICE IN SCIENCE


PROVIDING A HELPING HAND


When he was 7 years old, Aadeel Akhtar (BS ’07, MS ’08) visited his ancestral homeland of Pakistan for the first time. Traveling with his fam- ily to see relatives, Akhtar’s three- month visit was in sharp contrast to the life he knew in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. While there, he witnessed extreme poverty and lack of access to adequate health care. It was also the first time he encoun- tered an amputee. “She was my age, using a broken tree branch as a crutch because her leg had been amputated,” he recalled. “At the time, I wondered how we could share the same ethnic heritage but have such vastly different qualities of life.” That was in 1994. But when Akhtar


returned home to Streamwood, Illinois, his interaction with that girl stayed in the back of his mind for years. In the mid-2000s, while Akhtar was studying biology at Loyola, he again thought of that girl when the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago was making headlines for their work developing mind-controlled bionic limbs. For Akhtar, the work com- bined his passions for neuroscience medicine and computer science with a longstanding desire to help ampu- tees like the girl he met in Pakistan. Akhtar added minors in neuro-


science and computer science to his biology major, and then earned a master’s degree in computer sci- ence—all with an eye on creating prostheses that would be affordable for people in the developing world. Today, he is the founder and CEO of PSYONIC, a company that builds advanced—and affordable—pros- thetic hands. Using research, feed- back from amputee patients and their doctors, and some trial and error,


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