SPRINGFIELD — The TD Bank – Baystate Health Wellness on Wheels (WOW) Bus is all gassed up and hitting the road.
While the expected delivery of the bus last year was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the WOW Bus team didn’t wait to get started. They began using their own transportation to work in the community and collaborate with community groups to bring COVID-19 education and testing to Springfield residents. Community partners have included New North Citizens’ Council, Square One, Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services, and the Springfield Housing Authority.
The WOW Bus is the result of a $750,000 TD Ready Challenge grant from the TD Bank Group. The bus team will work with the community to provide health screenings, education, and referrals to low- to moderate-income and at-risk populations throughout Western Mass. Another goal of the bus is to train students in the health professions using a community-centered approach that puts communities and individuals at the center of the solution.
“The WOW Bus is an opportunity for us to join with stakeholders and the community by working hand-in-hand to identify and address gaps in healthcare services. Our goal is to provide those services to the most at-risk populations in a non-traditional healthcare setting right in their community, while eliminating barriers to access and resulting in better health outcomes,” said Lisa Clinton, a member of the WOW Bus community committee.
Dr. Kevin Hinchey, chief education officer at Baystate Health, added that “it is the teaching component to the TD Bank-funded program that makes it truly unique. The new mobile bus/classroom creates a community-centered model for interdisciplinary education.”
Baystate Health, which serves as the regional campus of UMass Chan Medical School, has a long history as an academic teaching hospital educating generations of health professionals — residents, medical students, nurses, midwives, pharmacists, and others — many of whom practice locally.
Baystate Health will use the new bus to train medical students to serve urban and rural populations through the UMass Chan Medical School – Baystate’s innovative PURCH (Population-based Urban and Rural Community Health) track. In addition, health-profession students from Western New England University College of Pharmacy and Westfield State University will be among the first to support these efforts.
“It is our hope, as we train the next generation of healthcare professionals, that they see themselves as community partners by bringing care directly into the community — and that they will be inspired to work with traditionally underserved populations once they enter the profession,” Hinchey said.
Recently, the WOW bus has been busy responding to community requests to provide education on COVID-19 prevention and vaccination, and often accompanies the Baystate Health Mobile Vaccine Van at its community clinics.
To learn more about the WOW Bus or book it for an event, visit baystatehealth.org/wowbus.