The Philadelphia Summer Medical Institute (SMI)

June 27-July 18, 2020

OVERVIEW  During this unique three-week, urban immersion program, Christian health professions students learn to address health needs of the largely low-income, urban community in Hispanic North Philadelphia and integrate their faith and the medical practice. While providing the practical service of providing health screens and health education to the community, students are also discipled, develop their relationship with God and examine their role as Christians in healthcare. The program partners with Esperanza Health Center, a Christian, federally qualified low-income health center with three locations in North Philadelphia. Graduate students from all levels are welcome to apply. Undergraduates in a specific health care or pre-health care track may apply (juniors or seniors preferred), but should first contact the SMI director at

APPLICATION and PREPARATION  The application for SMI 2020 is located on the link here.  Early decision applicants must have their application and two recommendations in by Feb. 15 for a March 1 decision, and all regular applicants must have their application in by March 15 for a March 31 decision.

Students who choose to attend SMI will participate in three and a half days of program orientation, medical training and community training at the start of the program before beginning their daily work in teams throughout the neighborhoods.

COST  The student support for participating in the SMI is $1400, which is tax deductible if donors itemize deductions. Most students choose to raise support to cover this cost. If you choose to support raise, we can provide sample letters, forms and guidelines to help you, and will provide support and information throughout the process.

DETAILS  SMI Philadelphia offers:

  • Urban medical outreach: Students live and work together in teams in the dense urban environment, daily providing door-to-door health screens for blood sugar and blood pressure, as well as providing educational information about diabetes, hypertension, HIV, asthma and nutrition while sharing the love of Christ through conversation and prayer with those they meet. Each student team will have an interpreter (usually local community members or Esperanza staff) who translate for Spanish speaking households. Through immersion in the community and personal interaction with people in the neighborhoods, students learn first-hand the impact of social, cultural, spiritual, and economic factors on health.
  • Education: Students each have an opportunity to shadow health care providers at Esperanza and observe an effective model of Christian primary care. Third and fourth year medical students and other upper-level health care students may participate in SMI as an academic rotation, pending school approval and availability. All students receive hands-on patient experience each day
  • Mentoring: Many Christian clinicians from all fields volunteer to work alongside the student teams on a rotating basis during the outreaches, as well as share meals and even join us occasionally during downtime activities. They will also teach students on topics relevant to medical practitioners during orientation, breakout teaching sessions (“Institute Days”), and the final “Return Training.”
  • Discipleship: Small group Bible study, daily debriefing, twice-weekly teaching on biblical foundations, and daily devotions and worship are integrated throughout the program. Through this, students are able to develop their relationship with God, learn to process and respond to the issues they encounter, and help develop a vision for their own career in health care.
  • Community: As one participant said, “There are many layers of community in SMI!” and this is one of the invaluable parts of  the program. Participants live, work and fellowship together during SMI and often develop close and meaningful relationships with one another and with our faculty. Students also learn to know the local community, and work in partnership with area churches, who provide follow up to those who request it. SMI participants come to know people in the community by meeting them in their homes, in the clinic, in the churches and on the streets.

To read the student blog, visit

SMI Albania International  Opportunity: In July, 2020, SMI will be taking a group of four students to Albania immediately following SMI Philly to provide health screens to an urban community while working in conjunction with Christian Albanian health professionals and students. This is the third year we have participated in the program in Albania, and the program will take place July 19-August 1. Total cost for the two weeks is estimated at approximately $2200 (and possibly less, including airfare) and may be support raised. Participants will have ideally participated in SMI Philadelphia in 2020 or in previous years. For more information and the application, contact the SMI director at