Headlines

As reported by the Farmington Patch, April 18, 2011.

Through Community Outreach, UConn Health Center Makes a Lasting Impact

Health Center Students Earn Knowledge and Experience Through Helping Others

By James Casciato

Since its doors opened 50 years ago, the UConn Health Center has had an unmistakable impact on the communities of central Connecticut.

Aside from educating students at the schools of medicine and dental medicine and treating patients at the John Dempsey Hospital, the Health Center has made it its mission to reach out to the underserved, impoverished and at-risk citizens in the state.

As part of the humanitarian mission, the Health Center has established a number of clinics across the state staffed by students and physician volunteers to provide medical and dental care as well as pharmaceutical assistance, nutritional education and prevention screenings to the people most in need.

In 1997, Dr. Bruce Gould, associate dean for primary care at the UConn School of Medicine established the Migrant Farm Worker Clinic, a mobile clinic staffed by an inter-disciplinary team of students and physicians which provides vital health care services at eight farms across the state from June to October every year.

Not only do the seasonal and migrant workers benefit from the treatment and education provided by the students and volunteers, but, according to Dr. Gould, the work itself has an incalculable benefit for the students.

"UConn students are very altruistic," Gould said. "But the demand on them can be daunting and itís easy to get disheartened. This program gives them an opportunity to get out into the community, to see firsthand the results of their work and to help them to remember why they got into health care in the first place."

According to Gould, itís not only students and the patients they serve who benefit from the migrant worker clinic.

"Older physicians are very jaded," Gould said. "They see health care as a business and as a business, itís very tough. When they come out to the camps, away from the insurance companies and bureaucracy and they see the bucolic environment and the students working together, it recharges their batteries. Itís a win-win."

Apart from the Migrant Worker Clinic which tended to nearly 300 patients in 2010, the UConn Heath Center has also established clinics at several area homeless shelters such as the South Park Inn and Salvation Army Marshall House in Hartford.

At the South Park Inn, students and physician volunteers have been providing care to the shelterís residents since 1987. Currently, the shelter houses the UConn School of Medicine Outreach Clinic which holds a semiweekly clinic providing primary care, nutrition education, and other services on Tuesday and Thursday nights, and tends to 10 to 20 patients a night.

Brian Baker is assistant director of the South Park Inn and says that the students and physician volunteers provide a service that would not otherwise be met.

"With this clinic, our residents donít have to use the ER for their primary medical care. The students donít just care for patients medically, they provide advice and they talk to them about stuff that they wonít even talk to their case managers about. The students get experience and the patients get the care they need. Itís been wonderful for our clients and it has provided them with a greater level of dignity."

With ongoing efforts to reach out to the less fortunate and take a hands-on approach to community service, the UConn Health Center looks to continue in its mission of goodwill and community outreach.

Sandy Barry, director of housing stabilization services at the Salvation Army Marshall House explained her appreciation for the work done by the UConn Health Centerís students and physician volunteers.

"They have made a tremendous impact," she said. "When someoneís life is in crisis, you canít underestimate the value of a helping hand."