Clinic revamp on the way with regents’ OK

The clinic also serves as a training facility for U medical students.

A University of Minnesota clinic that caters to medically underserved patients will now be able to serve more.

The Community-University Health Care Center (CUHCC) is located in the Phillips neighborhood, which is both underserved and has a shortage of medical health professionals.

The clinic, located on Bloomington Avenue, provides medical, mental health and dental care to about 12,000 patients per year.

The $2.7 million in renovations approved by the Board of Regents at its Friday meeting will allow the clinic to serve 1,250 more patients by 2013. The majority of the funds will come from a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services grant.

The renovations include paving the clinic’s gravel parking lot, updating entrances to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and upgrading a laboratory.

Due to an increase in demand for health care services, the clinic expects a patient volume increase of 8 percent next year.

“The Health Center has exceeded the capacity of the building to serve the patients and the educational mission effectively,” Aaron Friedman, dean of the Medical School, said in an email.

The majority of CUHCC’s clients receive some form of government assistance and about 27 percent are uninsured, according to 2011 data.

“We don’t turn anyone away, and [patients] pay what they can in order to get health care,” said Lee Meier, who currently works as an assistant scientist for the University’s Department of Biomedical Engineering and volunteers at the clinic three days a week.

Meier said by catching health problems early, the clinic provides treatment to patients before an illness becomes life-threatening or more costly.

“It’s a very important service because it’s essentially preventative medicine that would not normally be available for these people,” he said.

Meier believes his experience at the clinic will benefit him in his plan to pursue a career in medicine.

“It’s really opened my eyes to the necessity and the benefits of preventative medicine,” he said, “It’s provided me a broader perspective on the health care system in general.”

The clinic also serves as a training facility for University medical students. According to the clinic’s website, it annually has 24 dental, medical and mental health residents, 148 students and 13 volunteers.

“CUHCC serves our educational mission by providing a model for inter-professional education and collaborative care delivery,” Friedman said. “It is an urban site for a diverse population, which provides our students insight into culturally competent and effective care.”

Suzanne Smith, the assistant vice president for Capital Planning and Project Management, said the clinic is unique in the variety of care it provides to patients.

“Most community clinics do not offer the array of medical, dental, mental health and wraparound services the CUHCC does,” Smith said in an email. “CUHCC is in a unique position to pioneer the integration of care for diverse populations’ patients.”

The clinic benefits the community by spreading the model of care to other health care providers and communities in the state, she said. Renovations will allow the clinic to serve more patients by promoting efficient and quality care and improving access and flow.

“CUHCC patients’ comfort and access to care depends on an updated facility …” she said. “[Renovations will] allow the staff, residents and students-in-training to focus solely on patient-centered care instead of interrupting care for inefficient building issues that impact flow.”