November 22, 2020
“The idea came to me several years ago – while I was still an undergraduate,” remembers fourth-year medical student Acile Nahlawi. “I was very close to my late grandmother – may her soul rest in peace – which made me think a lot about old people and their needs. I started visiting nursing homes around Lebanon and was struck by how miserable many of them are, and how little we do for old people in this society.”
The idea to do something to benefit seniors people never left Nahlawi. In January 2020, after several months of hard work and with support and encouragement from her fellow medical students and professors at AUB, the GOLD Clinic was launched. “As medical students, I knew that we now have knowledge and skills that old people especially needed, so I felt that the time was right to do something,” Nahlawi remembers.
In addition to a core team operating under the supervision of physician and faculty advisors, there are now more than 200 dedicated students and residents volunteering at the weekly GOLD Clinic, which is located at the AUBMC Family Medicine clinics in the Wassef and Souad Sawwaf Building. It provides a wide range of free healthcare services including primary care visits, referrals to specialty clinics (cardiology, ophthalmology, surgery, etc.), medications, laboratory tests, imaging studies, health awareness/education, and psychological support/interventions.
Nahlawi and her colleagues are not only providing invaluable medical services. They are also helping to raise awareness about seniors – their vulnerabilities and their urgent needs – and also the rich lives that so many of them have lived. “We also want to fight against discrimination and shatter stereotypes,” says Nahlawi. One of GOLD’s most innovative initiatives is Mini-Maxi, a wonderful intergenerational learning event where seniors and toddlers spend time together and participate in group activities.
“The goal is to improve the health and well-being of seniors, focusing especially on those who most need help,” explains Nahlawi. “In order to determine who is most needy, we work closely with established NGOs and groups that we trust – such as Ajialouna, Beit-El-Baraka, and AUB’s Neighborhood Initiative.
The GOLD Clinic and AUB’s Neighborhood Initiative have been working especially closely since July 2020 to support the Al Jar lil Jar (neighbor for neighbor) campaign, which is addressing the urgent needs of people – many of whom are seniors – living in Ras Beirut. “We love collaborating with the Neighborhood Initiative. They are doing great work. It is especially wonderful to be collaborating with another AUB group to support our community,” says Nahlawi.