Last Monday morning the University of Michigan Student Run Free Clinic in Pinckney, Mich. was destroyed in what is believed to be an electrical fire.
The building served as a dual clinic housing the Faith Medical Clinic and the student clinic — which began working regular hours on Oct. 13 after a successful pilot program last spring. Together, they were the only free medical clinic in Livingston County.
The building was destroyed completely, and supplies and equipment such as printers, medication, thermometers and blood pressure cuffs were damaged beyond repair.
The student-run clinic’s digital patient files were spared because the laptops they’re stored on were out of the building. The firefighters were also able to save the file cabinets holding Faith Medical Clinic’s patient records.
Volunteers at the student clinic heard about the fire on Monday morning. Medical student Mohamad Issa, a student director of the clinic, said the news came as a shock.
“After the initial shock, we started thinking about the patients,” Issa said. “Who would the patients see? What clinic could they go to until we become operational again? It hurt at first, but we recognize the community needs us and we have all of these established ties, which motivates us to come back even stronger and to come back as fast as possible by working with the community.”
To be prepared for a new space, medical-student groups on campus are looking into getting supplies from the University, relief agencies in the area and the University of Michigan Health System. They have also created a place for donations on their Facebook page.
“Currently we’re contacting various organizations to try and facilitate donations for everything from tableside beds to chairs to stools to scales,” Issa said. “So when we find a new facility we will have all the equipment to be operational.”
Since the student clinic opened, it has seen more than 150 unique patients and experienced a surge in student volunteers, said Hari Conjeevaram, the clinic’s medical director and an associate professor of medicine.
Faith Medical Clinic leased the building from Putnam Township — the town in which the village of Pinckney is located — for $1 a year, but the township has not decided whether they will rebuild.
Despite losing the building, both clinics are working to reopen in another location. Faith Medical Clinic has added a PayPal donation link to its website to support the clinic’s continued existence. In addition, an emergency benefit has been scheduled for next weekend at the Mission Church in Pinckney, Faith Clinic founder Laura Goldman said.
“The services we have been able to offer to the uninsured have been quite tremendous,” Conjeevaram said. “The need is there and that’s one of the reasons we want to get back on track … We’re booked with patients and volunteers for the next few months.”
Conjeevaram said he’s seen an outpouring of support from the UMHS community to help the clinic get back on its feet.
“One of the things that has happened over the last couple of days is that a lot of students who have yet to volunteer at the clinic and a lot of faculty have been calling and e-mailing us about how they can help,” Conjeevaram said.
Although many medical students are currently on break or facing exams, the Michigan community has mobilized to try to get the clinic up and running as soon as possible, Conjeevaram said.
Conjeevaram said the relationship between Faith Medical Clinic and the student-run clinic has been beneficial in fostering an environment conducive to learning and interacting with patients.
“One of the key things with (Faith Medical Clinic), not only did they allow us to use their clinic for our clinic, but the most inspiring thing is that (Goldman) was struggling with not having a place for medical students to practice, she felt like she was letting them down,” he said.
Goldman said the group plans to rebuild the clinic, but has not yet decided on a new location. She said organizers are debating between two buildings — the old Putnam Township firehouse and a church in Brighton. Both clinics hope to be up and running in the next two to four weeks after a new space is determined and basic equipment is acquired.
Faith Medical Clinic and the student-run clinic are currently working to collect necessary medical supplies and find a temporary solution for the free clinic.
“All of these people we’ve interacted with and their amazing stories have defined our first two years of medical school,” Issa, the student clinic director said. “They have enriched our experience and touched our lives in ways that we can’t ever give back. This motivates us; when we re-open, we want the clinic to be better, stronger and more responsive to community needs.”