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Remembrance wall at LVHN-One City Center honors memory of Street Medicine patients

Craig Vito was homeless.

He continued to live on the street while battling a fatal illness because there were people in the hospital sicker than he was. He did not want to take up a hospital bed until he absolutely needed it.

Vito’s name is one of 15 names listed on a new remembrance wall at Lehigh Valley Health Network – One City Center, Allentown; a gift from Dr. Brian Nester and his wife, Dr. Tina Pippis-Nester.

Located along Hamilton Street near the facility’s main entrance, the wall memorializes patients of the health network’s Street Medicine program who lost their lives while homeless on the streets of the Lehigh Valley. The wall was unveiled during a candlelight ceremony Dec. 21, 2016, National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day, the first day of winter and the longest night of the year.

The Nesters first experienced the tragedies and medical consequences of homelessness while working as emergency physicians in Philadelphia.

During her remarks at the ceremony, Pippis-Nester referenced LVHN’s hospice program “No One Dies Alone,” adding with the remembrance wall, it is the hope no one dies “unknown.”

Colleagues in LVHN’s Street Medicine program provide health care for homeless people in shelters, soup kitchens, on the street and under bridges. The Street Medicine team works on the belief “everybody matters.”

The team has served more than 2,000 unique patients over the past two years and receives support from more than 200 colleagues who volunteer to provide care.

During the ceremony, Brett Feldman, director of the Street Medicine program, said each time he passes the wall during his daily rounds, he will be reminded of all the things he learned from patients who passed away.

“They are my greatest teachers,” Feldman said. “They will remind me of my successes, the need to share my love and, most of all, the need to give until it hurts.”

ABOVE: The remembrance wall at Lehigh Valley Health Network -- One City Center, Allentown, memorializes patients of LVHN's Street Medicine program who died while homeless on the streets of the Lehigh Valley.