LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 10, 2022) – Last week, the University of Kentucky College of Medicine-Northern Kentucky Campus opened a basic-needs clinic held in the newly remodeled Emergency Shelter of Northern Kentucky.
The clinic is known as CCRU (Compassionate Care Reaching yoU, pronounced “crew”), a meaningful name given by the students leading the program to reflect their true mission.
“We really wanted to create a name to demonstrate that we’re here for them,” said third-year medical student and Northern Kentucky native Amanda Schleper. “It’s really great that we are all working together for this, to extend medical care to the people that really need it here on my home turf, Northern Kentucky.”
The University of Kentucky College of Medicine strives to help provide medical students with experiences that allow them to learn underserved medicine, inequality in health care and social determinants of health. At the Northern Kentucky campus, students and professors saw a local need for clinical care and jumped on the opportunity to help.
“We have a goal of improving the health of this homeless population because homelessness and health are intimately connected,” said Holly Danneman, M.D., assistant professor at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine-Northern Kentucky and physician for St. Elizabeth Healthcare. “The homeless population tends to have a shorter life expectancy, more emergency department (ED) visits and more frequent hospitalizations. Our hope is to not only improve their health in general but also to improve utilization of our health care system at large.”
Much of the homeless population go a lifetime without treatment for chronic health conditions because they lack access or knowledge on how to access medical care. That’s what makes CCRU so important for this community, says Danneman.
“We’re bringing the care to them,” said Danneman. “They know where the shelter is, they seek shelter because of cold or rain. And while they’re here, they will find eager medical students who want to provide care for them regarding their basic health care needs.”
At CCRU, two beds are set up to serve the guests who stay at the shelter. Medical students and their professors have been spending the entire semester organizing supplies and getting everything set up and ready to go for their opening day.
“In our clinic, we’re able to offer basic medical care,” said Schleper. “So, we are doing checkups, checking blood pressure and interviewing patients to come up with a treatment plan for whatever issue they may be facing.”
The clinic operates with an attending UK physician who works in internal medicine, family medicine or emergency medicine. The physician donates their time to help these medical students offer proper care to these communities that are in need. The CCRU team also works with local community businesses to help provide full-service care.
“We have a current partnership with a local health clinic that can help bring them in next-day to help them with medications and chronic conditions,” said Danneman. “We also have a partnership with a local pharmacy, Faith Community Pharmacy, that is helping provide medications to people in need at no cost to them.”
In terms of on-site medication, CCRU does have over-the-counter medicines on-hand for anything that needs to be treated immediately with medication, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
And for the students, this is already making a great impact in the way that they think about patient care.
“I would like to go into family medicine,” said Schepler. “I really love the part where you get to build relationships with patients and help them through every issue they may face. And I think a free clinic like CCRU really relates to that. Hopefully, our guests will begin to feel comfortable with us and come back regularly.”
Schepler says this opportunity is something she had been looking forward to for years.
“I am ecstatic that we have been able to start this,” Schepler said. “Being a part of the inaugural class of the UK College of Medicine-Northern Kentucky Campus, we came here really hoping we would be able to do something this impactful. The COVID-19 pandemic put a pause on some of the opportunities we were looking at during my first year, but now the other third-year students and I are so excited to finally start making a real impact in our Northern Kentucky community.”
Third-year medical student Christa Mattingly feels strongly about their mission and says that she is looking forward to making a true, long-term impact in this community.
“Treating guests at CCRU will give students like me, an appreciation for medical disparities that directly impact the people in our community. We will also learn how to help patients navigate the barriers of the health care system,” said Mattingly. “Serving at CCRU is about changing the stigma and building relationships with a population who are often underserved by the healthcare system. As students, we are all so excited for this opportunity.”
Medical students of all levels are already finding this experience to be valuable. First-year medical student Zoey Knox believes the experience working at CCRU will be a vital component throughout her education at the UK College of Medicine-Northern Kentucky Campus.
“Serving the homeless population will make it possible for me to witness first-hand the health care disparities and social determinants of health that our community experiences,” said Knox. “This will help me cultivate a deeper level of understanding of how to best serve this community in my future practice. And, it will allow me to strengthen the basic clinical and communication skills that will be necessary for the rest of my career.”
To start, the clinic will be open on a rotation of Mondays and Wednesdays, with the hope that they will be able to run the clinic at least twice a week soon. The professors at the UK College of Medicine-Northern Kentucky Campus could not be prouder of the hard work and dedication that these students have expressed.
“From the minute they began, these students have really taken the ball and run with it,” Danneman said. “They've been so eager and excited to get this up and running. It's been a wonderful opportunity for me to watch them turn this dream into a reality. They have managed every detail beautifully, have so much heart and determination, and are making certain this clinic is life-changing, not only for the patients we serve but for the students who serve them.”
The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers." We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.