Students at Ohio University’s Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine collaborated with medical school professors and community health program staff to provide a new option for quality primary care services to southerners -eastern Ohio who are uninsured or underinsured through the Care Clinic.

The Care Clinic is a student-organized and run clinic staffed primarily by first- and second-year medical students who are mentored by a third- or fourth-year medical student. All patient care is overseen by attending physicians and a Heritage Community Clinic staff member is present at each clinic to assist with logistical issues.

In early summer 2020, Caroline Hyman, now a third-year medical student, approached Sherri Oliver, executive director of community health programs and the area health education center, about the possibility of creating a free clinic run by students.

Hyman, who currently does clinical rotations at Kettering Health Dayton (formerly known as Grandview Medical Center), first came up with the idea for the free clinic after his summer research experience was canceled due to the pandemic and transitioned into volunteering at a free clinic in her hometown.

“I really wanted to volunteer as a medical student that summer and started researching if a free student-run clinic was an option once I returned to Athens in the fall,” explained Hyman. “When I couldn’t find a clinic, I was hoping to open one, and with the pandemic ending the opportunity to volunteer that year, it gave us the perfect opportunity to take our time and to plan a foundation that would allow this student-run free clinic to last.

To start the clinic, Oliver and Hyman approached Beth Longenecker, (DO, 91), Heritage College, Athens, Dean and Medical Director of the Heritage Community Clinic, as well as Carole Merckle, Deputy Director of Community Health Programs and the health education in the region. Center. They formed a planning group with several dedicated students, spending the 2020-2021 academic year working to make the clinic a reality. The first clinic officially started in September 2021.

“The Care Clinic, as part of the Heritage Community Clinic system, is another access point for the uninsured or underinsured in our community to receive quality free health care,” Oliver said. “The Heritage Community Clinic has provided free primary care to residents of Southeast Ohio for more than two decades, and the Care Clinic offers our Heritage College students a first-hand opportunity to provide care to those who need most.”

Along with clinical experience, students also gained organizational experience by planning clinics and serving on the care clinic board. The council is made up of six sophomores from Heritage College, who apply and are selected at the end of their first year of medical school, as well as a group of advisors who are either faculty or staff at Heritage College.

“The Care Clinic benefits student learning on multiple fronts,” Longenecker said. “They are able to directly care for patients at their level of experience and learn from each other in the process of care. They are able to interact directly with upper-level students to hone their clinical reasoning skills and can also spend more one-on-one time with the faculty physician than is possible in a clinic. fast-paced primary care. And they also learn the context of what it takes to operationalize a practice, which is not typical during their usual third- and fourth-year clinical rotations.

Aashika Katapadi, a sophomore medical student and current student council president, served on the care clinic advisory committee last year and helped lay the foundation for the free clinic. She worked with her team over the summer to keep the clinic open and to recruit student volunteers to run the clinic.

“The care clinic is a fabulous opportunity for the different communities it brings together,” Katapadi said. “The clinic provides access to free medical care and resources to members of the Athens community who need it. Medical students can also help patients and put their knowledge to use while learning about the social determinants of health in action. It also provides an opportunity for mentorship between students from different years within the school.

The students of the four years of the medical school volunteer at the care clinic, while the volunteer faculty physicians also provide comprehensive help and support to the clinics.

“I feel so lucky to have worked to create a strong foundation for the care clinic,” Hyman said. “I wish I could have volunteered at the clinic once it was up and running, but I’m hopeful for the opportunities it will provide future students. I still hope to have the opportunity to volunteer directly with patients in the care clinic at some point before I graduate.

The Care Clinic is held once a month on Saturday mornings in the Heritage Community Clinic, located on the ground floor of Grosvenor Hall West on the West Green of Ohio University in Athens. Free parking is available for patients in front of the clinic entrance.

“Holding the clinic on weekends is essential for community members who are unable to attend the other primary care clinics offered by Heritage Community Clinic during the week due to work schedules,” Oliver added.

For information on the next scheduled care clinic, please call 740.593.2432 or email [email protected]