Medical Students Wash the Feet of the Homeless | Loyola Medicine
Thursday, March 26, 2015

Loyola Stritch medical students wash the feet of homeless men and women


Loyola Stritch medical students (from left) Robert Dunn, Shea Rausch, Joe Weber and Mark Tancredi enhanced their educational and Lenten experience by washing feet at a community clinic.

MAYWOOD, Ill. – Following the example of Pope Francis and commemorating one of the most poignant acts of Jesus’s ministry, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine students washed the feet of the marginalized at the Sole Care Foot Clinic in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood.

“In the Christian tradition, Lent is a time to be reminded of our commitment to God and His people, especially those who are pushed to the margins, or ‘the least of these,’” said Pauline Villapando, interim director of University Ministry at Stritch. “One of the main scriptural readings at the end of Lent is focused on the story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, showing them by example what they must do for others. We had the opportunity participate in that type of service in a unique way.”

In a church with a community of believers called Just Embrace, the five Stritch students first learned about the history of Uptown and the circumstances that led to its diverse population. After prayer and reflection, they went to work.

Though the process was simple, soaking and washing each person’s feet and then clipping the toenails, the impact on the students was complex and inspiring.

“Many people are uncomfortable with someone touching their feet. This natural awkwardness forced us to be sensitive to the person’s needs and boundaries. In the future when talking or approaching patients, I will remember this experience. I feel it helped to prepare me to be understanding and considerate of my future patients,” said Robert Dunn, first-year medical student. “This really helped remind me of why I went to medical school: to serve others. It was amazing to see how sincere love, humility and little effort could translate into personal and spiritual growth for both of us.”

Every month, volunteers at the church clinic wash the feet of the homeless, the elderly and many others. For some, this is the only time they are able to have their feet washed or cared for. For others, it’s a rare opportunity to connect with another person.

“Throughout the day we heard many stories, some uplifting and some tragic. The experience was a reminder that everyone has a story and, regardless of where they are in life, they are sensitive, vulnerable and always appreciate and deserve someone to talk to, not to mention clean feet,” said Joe Weber, first-year medical student.

One of the best skills a physician can learn is how to listen. Participating in the Sole Care Clinic gave those students a wonderful opportunity to grow as doctors and as individuals.

“I hope they continue to wrestle with that encounter, that it deepens their compassion and ability to listen to a person’s story. Listening while washing people’s feet gave these students a chance to question the structures that keep people in poverty and the systems that work as barriers for accessing vital services such as mental health and affordable housing,” said Villapando.

With media inquiries, please contact Evie Polsley at or call (708) 216-5313 or (708) 417-5100.

About Loyola Medicine and Trinity Health

Loyola Medicine, a member of Trinity Health, is a quaternary care system based in the western suburbs of Chicago that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, MacNeal Hospital and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services from 1,877 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital in Maywood that includes the William G. and Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois's largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital. Having delivered compassionate care for over 50 years, Loyola also trains the next generation of caregivers through its teaching affiliation with Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Gottlieb is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital in Melrose Park with 150 physician offices, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park. MacNeal Hospital is a 374-bed teaching hospital in Berwyn with advanced inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical and psychiatric services, advanced diagnostics and treatments. MacNeal has a 12-bed acute rehabilitation unit, a 25-bed inpatient skilled nursing facility, and a 68-bed behavioral health program and community clinics. MacNeal has provided quality, patient-centered care to the near west suburbs since 1919.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic healthcare systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 94 hospitals, as well as 109 continuing care locations that include PACE programs, senior living facilities and home care and hospice services. Its continuing care programs provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually. Based in Livonia, Mich., and with annual operating revenues of $18.3 billion and assets of $26.2 billion, the organization returns $1.1 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity employs about 133,000 colleagues, including 7,800 employed physicians and clinicians. Committed to those who are poor and underserved in its communities, Trinity is known for its focus on the country's aging population. As a single, unified ministry, the organization is the innovator of Senior Emergency Departments, the largest not-for-profit provider of home health care services—ranked by number of visits—in the nation, as well as the nation’s leading provider of PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly) based on the number of available programs.