PINCKNEY, Mich. — University medical students are extending their education beyond the classroom by reaching out to uninsured adults in the greater Livingston area.

On Saturday, the University of Michigan Student-Run Free Clinic held an open house for the Pinckney community after completing a successful pilot phase of the program, according to Brent Williams, an associate professor of internal medicine. The clinic is expected to serve the community with regular hours starting on Oct. 13, and will be open every Saturday from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

“The pilot phase is almost flawless, it’s remarkable to me,” Williams said. “If I worked with people half as organized in my regular administrative life at the University as the students are, the whole University would be better.”

The idea for the clinic stemmed from five third-year Medical School students — Alexander Andrews, Karen Chow, Lauren Dennisuk, Michael Gao and Alexandra Pulst-Korenberg — that first presented their proposal to the Medical School in 2010, with the help of other faculty members. The group developed its plans to start the program in a pitch to administrators in summer 2011. The plan was ultimately adopted with the help of Hari Conjeevaram, an associate professor of internal medicine and medical director of the clinic.

The student clinic operates in the Faith Medical Clinic, which also provides free healthcare for the uninsured. Laura Goldman, a nurse practitioner who runs Faith Medical Clinic with her husband Mitch, said the partnership has developed to be mutually beneficial.

“It really is a win-win situation because for the students they’re going to get hands on experience and for the people who have no medical insurance are going to get some of the best medical attention in the world,” Goldman said.

In addition to serving uninsured individuals in rural Michigan, the clinic also offers invaluable experience for medical students, according to Medical School student Natalie Hoffmann, a student director for the clinic.

“There’s a peer education component as well, in addition to the student-physician component,” Hoffmann said. “The point of having first and second year medical students is to give them experience with the hospital process before they go into the hospital. There was student interest in getting more patient contact up front before their third year.”

Medical student Mohamad Issa, a student director of the clinic, said the center has undergone major changes since the implementation of the free primary care services. He specifically noted that the appointment-only Faith Medical Clinic has begun to accept new uninsured patients since medical students became involved, and they have been able to decrease waiting times.

Issa said that in the pilot phase, students saw patients every other week, at an average of about 6 to 8 patients, and once fully launched will be able to take up to 15 patients at a time.

All medical students working in the clinic are there on their own volition. Volunteer medical students conduct an interview with patients and take vitals before the physician consults on the case, and students are completely in charge of the clinic’s administration.

Issa said the experience has served as a reminder that practicing medicine transcends science, and is critical in fostering human relationships.

“Speaking on a personal level, this has been one of the most influential things that I’ve been involved in as a student,” Issa said. “We go into medicine for the sciences, but also for the humanitarian aspect … This serves to remind me and as an opportunity to remind a lot of my classmates why we go into medicine and why we do what we do.”

The Student-Run Free Clinic is looking to expand its services beyond primary health services for the uninsured, Conjeevaram said. He noted that the clinic specifically hopes to integrate women’s health services, including pap smears and mammography, as well as colonoscopies and dental hygiene.

“We’re trying to go beyond the just usual care we provide when they come in, we are very much interested in health prevention,” Conjeevaram said.

Administrators have also expressed that they want the center to become more of a long-term primary care facility, but Williams said he is proud of the progress and success thus far of an idea that was conceived just two years ago by five medical students.

“We hope to make a long term presence in the Pinckney community and to put down roots here through the student-run free clinic,” Williams said. “Then we’ll just see what spins off over time.”

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