LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 22, 2013) - It should come as no surprise that "service, caring, and sensitivity to others" are listed among the University of Kentucky College of Medicine's (COM) mission statement and values. Although all UK medical students have dedicated their studies and their futures to helping others, one group is already showing their community the importance of putting service into action.
A group of 20 UK College of Medicine students make up a volunteer team that staffs the University of Kentucky Salvation Army Clinic (SAC), along with supervising physicians. The clinic, located in downtown Lexington at the Salvation Army Center on Main Street, is a free medical clinic and is the oldest community service project run through COM. The mission of the clinic since its founding in 1986 has been to help serve the uninsured population in Lexington by providing free medical services and raising awareness of local health care resources.
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Medical students have various reasons for volunteering at the clinic, and take different things away from their experiences. Maggie Cassidy, a second-year medical student from Lexington who serves as clinic financial advisor, said that "accessing health care is a hassle for these patients. We are able to make them aware of our partners in the community. I appreciate coming out of the clinic at night and feeling like I helped someone. We can help them; we can review what's going on with them. We've made an impact on someone's life that day."
The Salvation Army Clinic was established in 1986 by Dr. Abner Golden and Dr. David Cowen as a partnership between the UK College of Medicine and Salvation Army of Central Kentucky. Six years later, in 1992, Dr. John Gurley took over the clinic's operations. Under his guidance, medical students became more involved and the clinic moved to its current space in the W. Arnold Hanger Lodge of the Salvation Army.
In 2010, UK HealthCare Good Samaritan Hospital joined the partnership and provided the clinic with access to laboratory services not previously available. A board of directors was established in 2011 consisting of physicians, COM student affairs administrators and students, with the goal of aiding in the clinic's growth and expansion. Through all the changes, medical students have always managed the SAC by supervising activities.
The clinic is open Tuesday and Thursday evenings and patients are seen on a first come, first served basis. An average of eight patients are seen each night. The clinic currently consists of three exam rooms, a basic on-site laboratory, a pharmacy and a separate area for weekly smoking cessation classes. The clinic provides many services, including adult episodic care, the smoking cessation classes, rapid strep tests, prescription assistance and referrals.
"We are limited at at the clinic and focus on acute care," said Pete Wallenhorst, one of the clinic's co-managers. "We know of resources available to recommend to patients."
All staff at the clinic are volunteers, including medical students, physicians and undergraduate students. Volunteering at the clinic not only helps serve a population in need, it also allows students to gain real world experience by working in a clinic environment and interacting with physicians and patients.
Daniel Kim, a second-year medical student who worked in student clinics while earning his bachelor's degree at the University of California Los Angeles, and master's degree at Georgetown University, heard about the Salvation Army Clinic at orientation and knew he wanted to get involved.
"Working at the clinic is a win-win for everyone," said Kim. "The students get to practice clinical skills and interact with patients, and patients get our help when they can't afford it from someone else. I think it should be an essential part of our education."
The majority of the staff is made up of first- and second-year medical students, but medical students of any year are encouraged to volunteer.
"It has been great to see more involvement from the first year class. It is a big part of medical school education and offers a different perspective," said Wallenhorst, from Burlington, Ky., who jumped at the chance to get involved in his first year and now a second year student.
In addition to medical students, undergraduate or pre-medical students also are encouraged to volunteer at the clinic. Undergraduate students carry out triage and one-on-one interviews with patients. There is also an opportunity for undergraduate students to participate in special clinic projects.
The clinic also requires the presence of attending physicians and medical residents who work with the medical students. Medical students present their patient interviews to the physicians and discuss the case before preparing a treatment plan.
"It is important to recognize that everyone volunteering at the clinic is there on their own initiative. The physician volunteers work all day and then come out to help us. We also rely on undergrads and private donations. It is a team effort," Kim said.
While the clinic aims to provide a learning experience, it is important that the staff provides quality health care to the patients. If necessary, physicians write prescriptions and suggest referrals. The clinic requires that an attending physician must sign off on all charts.
While the students have made their impact on the Lexington community, the experience has also greatly impacted them.
"The clinic is a great way to remind yourself why you are doing all this," said Cassidy. "It’s a fun night to be there and do something; it's totally worth it in every way. Volunteering made me realize that I do like patient interaction, that is something that has been reinforced."
Being there for the patients and listening to them is healing for them, said Wallenhorst. "The clinic has influenced me by teaching me the difference between healing and curing," he said. "Listening to patients and being empathetic is something all physicians need to learn."
Kim said volunteering at the clinic has solidified his desire to be an active patient advocate. "I love the patient interaction; hearing their stories and learning what you can do to accommodate patients better. I want to use my skills to benefit everyone around me."
For more information please visit www.uksac.org. Please direct all general inquiries to Richard Lewis and Pete Wallenhorst, UKSAC managers, via the Contact Us page on the SAC website. Under department, please select "clinic manager".
MEDIA CONTACT: Kristi.Lopez@uky.edu