Jan. 31, 2008
Mobile Clinic partnering with Cedar Rapids' free medical clinic
The Mobile Clinic -- an interdisciplinary outreach effort led by University of Iowa health sciences students -- is partnering with the Community Health Free Clinic in Cedar Rapids to provide medical and health education services to the clinic's clientele.
Students from the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and the Colleges of Pharmacy, Nursing and Public Health will help staff the clinic the first Saturday of every month, beginning Feb. 2.
This Saturday, 15 to 20 UI students volunteering at the clinic will perform a variety of functions: greeting and registering patients, pulling patient charts, and performing other key clerical tasks. First- and second-year medical students and nursing students will take patients' vital signs and medical histories. Pharmacy students will work closely with the clinic's on-site volunteer pharmacist. And third- and fourth-year medical students will diagnose patient cases and, in some cases, provide care under the direct supervision of doctors from the UI and Cedar Rapids physicians who also volunteer to staff the clinic.
Students from the Mobile Clinic have been working with the Community Health Free Clinic staff over the past several months in planning the collaboration, noted Emma Jordan, a third-year UI medical student from Kenosha, Wis.
"We've taken numerous field trips to Cedar Rapids and met with the staff to get a sense of the clinic's patient flow, the services they provide or would like to provide, and how the Mobile Clinic could complement the work they do," Jordan said. "We didn't want to simply be duplicating their efforts."
"The students' involvement is huge. We would not be open on a Saturday morning if not for their commitment," said Darlene Schmidt, CEO and executive director of the Community Health Free Clinic. "This is also a great service-learning opportunity for the students -- working directly with health professionals but also hearing the stories of the uninsured and seeing firsthand that aspect of community health."
The clinic is open five days a week for patients needing primary care. Specialty care services -- orthopedic, asthma or psychiatric treatments, for example -- are typically offered once a week or when specialists are available to volunteer, Schmidt said. The clinic treats around 2,000 patients (providing more than 4,000 patient services) per month, she noted. Physicians, physician assistants and advanced registered nurse practitioners see patients at the clinic. Dental care and some prescription medications also are available.
The Mobile Clinic began in 2002 as a student-run, community-centered health care treatment and education project. Its mission is to serve uninsured and underserved people in Johnson County and the surrounding area. Made up of nearly 300 UI student volunteers from programs in medicine, dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, social work and public health, the Mobile Clinic has worked with the Broadway Neighborhood Center, Pheasant Ridge Neighborhood Center, Shelter House and Regency Heights Senior Residences in Iowa City as well as Columbus Junction Community Schools. With the use of a redesigned transit bus, Mobile Clinic students and supervising faculty advisors offer health screenings and other services to low-income families, the homeless, migrant workers and culturally diverse groups.
The Mobile Clinic's involvement with the Community Health Free Clinic helps fill an important need to provide medical care on a Saturday, since many of the clinic's clientele have work, child care or other commitments that can make coming to the clinic during weekday hours difficult. But the Mobile Clinic volunteers also will bring a health education and prevention-awareness component to the Cedar Rapids clinic, said Penny Rembolt, coordinator for the Mobile Clinic in the UI Carver College of Medicine.
"From the outset of this partnership, the students recognized and emphasized the value that patient education could bring to a community," Rembolt said. "They've worked closely with Darlene and others from the Community Health Free Clinic to explore ways to share information with the patients they serve. It's really been a positive collaboration for the students and the clinic."
Plans include developing and presenting educational sessions on topics such as nutrition or diabetes, for example, that are offered on site and in addition to regular patient care services.
For the Mobile Clinic students, service to the community is an important aspect of their medical education experience. It's a commitment they take seriously.
"I'd like to do international work someday, so I thought I'd start by working with people here at home who don't always have access to medical care," Jordan said. "This experience will help lead me to serve the underserved in other countries. It's rewarding to know that, even as a medical student, you can make a difference."
For Tom Longley, a second-year medical student from Round Lake Heights, Ill., working with diverse or underserved populations is part of his personal and professional growth. "It's an important issue that affects the whole society. I just feel that this is something that needs to be done more," he said.
The Community Health Free Clinic, located at 947 14th Ave. SE in Cedar Rapids, will open at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 2. For more information, call 319-363-0416 or visit the clinic's Web site at http://www.communityhfc.org.
STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5139 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178