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Med Students Learn The Stories Behind The Stats

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By Rebecca Sheir

There are roughly 11,000 homeless people in the D.C. area. But students at Georgetown Medical School are learning the stories behind the statistics.

David Pirtles story goes like this. He developed schizophrenia in his late twenties, and wound up on the streets of D.C., until he was arrested for stealing smoked salmon from a museum gift shop. And it was the greatest day of my life because it was the first time that anybody realized that I needed help, he says.

Pirtle recently spoke to a classroom full of first-year med students at Georgetown. It's part of a new program to teach future doctors like Sanna Ronkainen about the different populations they might one day serve.

"D.C. does have such a large homeless population," Ronkainen notes. "And we see a lot of statistics, or we see people sitting on the street but you don't talk to them? So I think its been good to put a face on a concept."

Homeless advocates say Georgetown is the first medical school to use this kind of curriculum to bring the two groups face to face.

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