University Medical School students are applying their skills to give back to the community through a new program that provides free medical care for patients in Livingston County.

Michigan Student Run-Free Clinic, the newly-formed organization staffed by University faculty physicians and medical students on a volunteer basis, provides free care to all its patients without insurance. The clinic has been in its pilot phase since late April, offering services every other week, and will begin regular hours on Oct. 13.

Medical Prof. Hari Conjeevaram, the lead faculty adviser to the clinic team and medical director of the clinic, said five current third-year medical students proposed the idea to medical school officials at the end of 2010. Along with several faculty members, the students — Alexander Andrews, Karen Chow, Lauren Dennisuk, Michael Gao and Alexandra Pulst-Korenberg — presented their ideas to Medical School administrators in the summer of 2011 as part of their effort to get the partnership approved.

Conjeevaram said the benefits of the clinic are two-fold as it provides a free health care option for the nearly 30 percent of Livingston county residents who don’t have health insurance, and it also gives students a chance to give back to the community while gaining experience in their field.

“It’s really important for us to understand what’s happening in the community and how to help people who really need help in terms of being underinsured or lack of insurance,” Conjeevaram said. We felt that it was very important for those needs to be met.”

Conjeevaram added that it’s empowering for students to use their classroom skills to help those in need.

“It promotes the sense of volunteerism and what it means to care for others,” Conjeevaram said. “This can show them that they are capable of doing anything they would like to in terms of serving the community.”

Gao, one of the medical students who started the clinic, wrote in an e-mail interview that he thinks the clinic will fulfill the needs of both patients and students.

“I envision our clinic providing volunteer and leadership opportunities to interested students and physicians,” Gao wrote. “Medical care and medical education are both very limited resources, and our clinic provides a bit of each.”

Chow, another student agreed and wrote in an e-mail that she is excited to see the group’s ideas finally come to fruition.

“There is nothing more exciting than forming an idea and seeing it turn into reality,” Chow wrote. “Founding a clinic required self-motivation, seamless teamwork, and selling an idea to administration and community figures, akin to starting a business. These are skills that medical schools do not teach.”

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