Student-Run Free Clinic Offers Community Members Assistance

The best experience with a doctor that she has ever had.

That’s how a patient described her visit on Saturday, Sept. 17, opening day of NEOMED’s new student-run free clinic. Using a fully equipped physician’s office in the NEW Center, the clinic offers both primary care and medication management services on select Saturdays.

Ariana Ellis, a second-year medicine student, beamed as she related the story of how the patient had responded to the students’ receptive listening. “She really opened up to us,’’ Ellis said.

The goal of the clinic is to provide health care to those who can’t afford it. The student volunteers began by spreading the word to local social services agencies, houses of worship and non-profits that might be able to provide transportation for patients, since lack of transportation is a common barrier to health care. The students have knocked down another barrier, lack of insurance, by making the visits free.

The patient’s story that Saturday was not unusual. She had common medical problems and she couldn’t afford the co-pay for refills of the medication she had been prescribed. What was uncommon, though, was the hours of personal service she received. Because she was just one of two patients being seen, the students spent between two and three hours listening and guiding her to resources to cope with a variety of problems in her life.

“It was eye-opening, hearing the personal struggles in her life that were contributing to her anxiety and depression,’’ said Ellis.

The experience took the students a step deeper into the actual practice of medicine, Ellis said. Starting out with standardized patients at the Wasson Center is a good first step, she said, “but it’s hard to get on a deeper level of conversation because you know the standardized patient is following a script and you are being monitored and evaluated. The free clinic is genuine. I think it’s a really good experience.’’

The core group of volunteers includes roughly 10 students who have been working to establish the free clinic.  Clinic coordinators include Ariana Ellis, Pallavi Sharma, Haley Coleman and John Hill.  

The clinic reflects the interprofessional training NEOMED medicine and pharmacy students receive, since they work as a team.

The students are supervised by attending physician John Boltri, M.D., chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at NEOMED.  Dr. Boltri said he was very excited to have the clinic up and running after years of planning.

“There are people who can’t afford good health care. They may have to choose between paying the electric bill or seeing a doctor. It’s important to help them,’’ he said.

Dr. Boltri said he is grateful to the entire NEOMED community for its support in launching the clinic, noting, “This is an effort that takes a village to start and sustain.”

Primary care services will be offered Oct. 8, Nov. 5, Dec. 3 and Jan. 7, 2017. Patient education and medication management—a review of the patient’s medications and how they work, as well as conversations about potential drug interactions—will be available Oct. 22, Nov. 19, Dec. 10 and Jan. 21, 2017.

The clinic will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the days listed above at the NEOMED Education and Wellness (NEW) Center, 4209 State Route 44 in Rootstown. Patients may schedule an appointment by calling 330.552.7080.

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