Each year, an estimated 4.2 million youth and young adults experience homelessness. 

University of Minnesota Medical School students recognized a community need and initiated a solution. Enter The MD Link. 

The MD Link is a new student-led organization that aims to provide early intervention for youth who are at higher risk of or are already experiencing homelessness, foster-care, sex trafficking or involvement in the juvenile justice system. 

The organization was founded by first-year medical student Michael Kelly. At the age of 15, Kelly was placed into the foster-care system. Before attending college, he had moved approximately 16 times and attended five different schools due to instability in his life. 

“My experiences of navigating life and my post-secondary education as a first-generation college student and foster-youth presented many barriers and obstacles that I had to overcome,” Kelly said. “I vowed to myself that when able, I would someday help others that face similar challenges.”

Now, he is in a position to do just that. 

Kelly has a history of creating mentorship programs and facilitating community outreach in the foster-care community. During Kelly’s first few weeks of medical school in the fall of 2021, second-year medical student Christopher Prokosch reached out to him to tell him about affiliate programs that have thousands of youth in the Twin Cities area. 

“Growing-up in foster-care and dysfunction myself, I felt a special connection to the youth. I wanted to help them. I wanted to uplift and empower these youth,” Kelly said.

The MD Link now facilitates a medical student-to-youth mentorship program, educational workshops and presentations. It is led by co-presidents Kelly and Dani Frazee along with executive board members Prokosch, Milki Gemeda and Anvita Singh. 

Kelly added, “I am so appreciative of my colleagues and friends who have helped me develop this to what it is today. I couldn’t have done it alone and I am so grateful.” 

The group strives to make the organization beneficial for vulnerable youth, but also helpful for medical students, as the organization exposes medical students to current socio economic issues within the community.

“Our goal is that by founding The MD Link and connecting medical students to our community's vulnerable youth, we are creating a place where students are inspired to become leaders and advocates themselves for change within our communities — all while providing the youth a stable role-model in their sometimes unstable lives,” Kelly said. 

Right now, there are 50 mentors and 50 youth signed up for the program. In the coming years, the group hopes to expand to other college units with the University.

“My dream is to help others navigate adversities, possibly similar to those I experienced, with an empathetic and caring mentor of their own,” Kelly said. 

If you are interested in getting involved in The MD Link, Kelly encourages you to join the group’s GopherLink page and reach out to Kelly or Frazee via email.