U students volunteer at health-care clinic

Hayley Odom

In class, medical students are expected to learn the basics of medicine, such as taking blood pressure, testing for disease and learning general practice procedures.

But more than 100 University students have also been learning on the job while volunteering in a Phillips Neighborhood Clinic that brings health care to the uninsured and the needy.

The students said they feel good about giving back to the community while improving residents’ lives, a task they take on nearly every Monday night from the basement of a Minneapolis Presbyterian church, where the clinic is located.

It is the only student-run clinic in the area, and second-year medical student Jennifer McNabb said she has volunteered there since last November.

“When I found out about a clinic that helped the underinsured, I really liked the idea of it, which is why I decided to get involved,” she said.

University Center for Bioethics professor and clinic medical director John Song helps supervise the students.

“It’s really inspiring to see how many students are willing to take time out of their busy schedules and serve a population that a lot of the rest of the society has forgotten or ignored,” he said.

Besides working directly with patients in the clinic, McNabb said she is also on a committee that helps secure funding.

Student volunteers have organized a silent auction tonight at the Weisman Art Museum to further raise money for the clinic. Items up for auction include art, getaway vacations, a massage package and blown glass vases, McNabb said.

“We do a lot of grant writing and we thought this would be a fun event – something different to help raise money,” she said. “It’s more of a community outreach for the clinic.”

More than half of the clinic’s patients are Hispanic and do not speak English, said Eric Meininger, clinic coordinator and physician at the Community-University Health Care Center.

“(The students) get to experience working with folks in needy communities and give back to the community at the same time,” he said.

Clinic workers also do not ask immigrants about their legal status in the country.

The student volunteers are from six Academic Health Center schools and are supervised by doctors from the Community-University Health Care Center and the Academic Health Center.

The clinic offers general medical care, physical therapy, social services, and has a pharmacy.

On average, the clinic serves between six and eight patients each Monday, Meininger said.

“The need is greater than (what) we are offering at this point,” he said.

“It’s quite time-intensive to operate, even with the limited hours,” Meininger said, adding that the clinic might expand its hours in the future.

Clinic patrons also see a need for expanded hours, Song said, adding the clinic wishes more faculty would volunteer to help the students.

“We need more professionals to help teach our students,” he said.