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The University of South Alabama hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday for the student-run free clinic at 15 Place, a homeless shelter in Mobile, Ala.
The USA student-run free clinic (SRFC) was created entirely by students and provides free wellness services to the homeless population of Mobile at 15 Place every Saturday morning.
“We are able to check blood pressure and blood glucose, provide well check-ups, clean small wounds, and provide educational sessions on wellness topics such as smoking cessation, HIV, diabetes and heart health,” said Lauren Nelson, a second-year USA medical student who volunteers at the clinic.
Nelson said she was thrilled when she learned that USA had a student-run clinic. Prior to starting medical school, she volunteered at a free clinic in Birmingham. “I believe that everyone should have access to quality health care, and I think the health and wellness services we provide to the community are very valuable,” said Nelson, who began volunteering at 15 Place during her first year of medical school at USA.
The student-run clinic began operation in 2014 and is a collaboration between the students and faculty of the USA College of Medicine; College of Nursing; several departments in the College of Allied Health, including physician assistant studies and speech pathology and audiology; the department of social work in the College of Arts and Sciences; as well as the Auburn Harrison School of Pharmacy.
Since its opening, the clinic has grown astronomically, according to USA fourth-year medical student Sarah Boyd, one of the clinic’s founders. “While it started out only being open two Saturdays a month, it quickly progressed to being open each weekend,” Boyd said. “We are so proud of all the progress that has been made on the clinic during the past year and are lucky to have so many dedicated, compassionate students at South Alabama who allow the clinic to thrive.”
The clinic is one of the only free, inter-professional student-run clinics in the nation where students from multiple health professional schools collaborate to provide care to the community’s homeless population.
Dr. Alison Rudd, chair of the faculty advisory committee for the student-run clinic and assistant professor of nursing at USA, has always had a strong interest in inter-professional education and collaborative care. “The inter-disciplinary approach is unique in that it allows the students to learn about one another’s professional roles, while also giving them a chance to serve the community,” she said. “It gives the students a great opportunity to practice clinical skills, patient education, and patient communication.” Rudd also said the clinic provides research opportunities for student volunteers.
According to Nelson, the interaction between professional students is very valuable as each student brings a different skill-set to the table. “Even though medical, pharmacy and nursing students all learn clinical skills, many of these skills are learned at different points in their training,” Nelson said.
On a typical clinic morning at 15 Place, volunteers from several different disciplines arrive at 8 a.m. for the pre-clinic meeting. During this time, the volunteers are assigned to work in inter-professional teams in each exam room. Doors are opened to patients at 8:30 a.m., and they begin the check-in process. Once the patient is in an exam room, the inter-professional team takes vitals and the patient history and completes a physical exam. After patients have been seen, the clinic team presents the case to the faculty member overseeing clinic that day, who helps the team decide the most appropriate next step for the patient.
The clinic’s hands-on approach has a large impact on professional development, according to Nelson. “It is satisfying to be able to apply what I am learning in the classroom to help patients better understand their health,” she said. “I am gaining valuable clinical experience when I volunteer at 15 Place, and I learn a great deal from our patients.”
Alex Wiles, development chair of the clinic and a second-year medical student at USA, said the clinic typically sees up to 30 patients each Saturday. “This clinic is something that truly matters,” Wiles said. “The amount of gratitude our patients show is life changing.”
The student-run clinic is currently looking for clinicians to help with student supervision and oversight of patient care including wellness exams and health screenings. To learn more, contact Dr. Rudd at email@example.com.
Click here to view more photos from the ceremony.
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