Street medicine, made in Pittsburgh: A gritty, compassionate solution to everything that’s wrong with health care.

Editor’s Note: On behalf of PublicSource, writer Timothy Maddocks spent six days between October 2017 and February 2018 embedded with street medicine teams. He attended the 2017 International Street Medicine Symposium and interviewed more than three dozen street medicine practitioners, from Pittsburgh and beyond. Though the days are still warm as we publish this story, soon people experiencing homelessness will again be subject to severe drops in temperature. This story sheds light on how street medicine practitioners aim to help the population throughout the year and how it plays out at the most critical times.  

On a gray January morning, the team from Pittsburgh Mercy's Operation Safety Net follows the hollow sound of a dog barking in the distance to the tent that they’ve been looking for. And there it is, between the Allegheny River and the gravel bike trail: a mismatched collage of older tents and tarps, faded yellow and bright orange.

Sue Kerr recognizes that she has had support throughout hard times post-hysterectomy and she wonders how others with little to no safety net are getting through hurdles and uncertainty she faced. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

Getting a hysterectomy in a world-class healthcare city like Pittsburgh should be easy. Trust me, it’s not.

Editor’s Note: As journalists, we spend a lot of time talking with officials and community members and distilling it into stories that explore important issues of our time. But we realize that sometimes it is just more powerful to hear it straight from the source. This is one of those times. When I learned that I would need a hysterectomy at age 47, I anticipated bumps in the road — but only of the medical sort. I didn’t foresee the ways in which institutional issues would complicate my recovery.