Student-run clinic opens its doors

Cooperation between different types of medical students means unique treatments.

Tom Moran

The Pillsbury House has provided community aid to those in need around the Twin Cities for more than a century. Now, University medical students have brought an innovative dimension to that organization.

The completely student-run Pillsbury House Integrated Health Clinic opened its doors for the first time last weekend. The clinic provides free health care to the public and a learning experience for University students studying health care.

The clinic is a unique operation because it integrates personnel from different health-care disciplines into one setting.

where to go

Pillsbury House
what: Clinic
hours: Wed. 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Sat. 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
where: 6501 Chicago Ave. S. Minneapolis
For more information, call (612) 824-0708

Carter Lebares, co-founder of the clinic and a fourth-year medical student, said University Medical School students and health coaches from the Center for Spirituality and Healing are volunteering at the clinic. She said nurse practitioner students are expected to join the operation by next year.

Lebares said acupuncture, massage therapy, chiropractic and Chinese medicine students from Northwestern Health Sciences University are also volunteering, and added psychotherapy students from the Adler Graduate School will provide counseling services.

Patients are treated by a team of three or four students at a time. After meeting with a patient, students discuss their diagnoses and propose treatments with a supervising physician.

Afterward, the team returns to the patient to discuss and apply treatment, which could range from acupuncture to a prescription.

During the process, each patient is provided a student advocate to remain by his or her side, answer questions and explain the process.

Justin Laube, a second-year medical student and clinic volunteer, said the diverse views of the students will provide more complete treatment than just one physician could offer.

He said he is excited about integrative medicine because different disciplines haven’t cooperated much in the past.

“It was amazing to see everyone working together,” Laube said.

He said he hopes the treatments will help scale back overmedication of patients and teach them how to take care of their bodies in the long term.

Laube said working with other students has already taught him about different medical doctrines.

Students learn from one another while working with patients, but also explore different techniques during their down time, he said.

The process is a learning experience even for the overseeing physicians.

Dr. Susan Haddow, a faculty physician at North Memorial Hospital and supervising physician at the clinic, said she was impressed by the detailed patient histories some students were asking for and was unfamiliar with the framework under which other disciplines operate.

“Everyone is looking forward to learning from each other,” she said.

And this new concept seems to be stirring enthusiasm in the health-care industry.

Laube said he has seen excitement from students, community residents, patients and the Pillsbury House. He said about 70 students from the medical school will ultimately be involved, but up to 160 have expressed interest, Laube said.

Georgia Nygaard, coordinator of the University’s Family Nurse Practitioner Program, said she will have all the students in her program participate.

Haddow said she has even seen enthusiasm in the professional community. She said she has been recruiting supervisors and expects members of the American Holistic Medical Association to be involved.

“The energy and the participation level and the enthusiasm from the students is just contagious,” she said.

Lebares said the idea for the clinic was born between her and Mike Wiles, dean of the Northwestern College of Chiropractic, about two years ago.

Wiles said one of the hardest parts of the clinic was the preparation.

“It took a lot of collaboration and consultation,” he said. “Once we actually got the critical elements of this model it went very quickly.”

Lebares said she wanted to establish the center to treat disadvantaged citizens from the neighborhood she grew up in.

She said alternative treatments are not always covered by health insurance and she wanted to provide help to people who would benefit the most.

Lebares said charitable funding and volunteering workers have enabled the clinic to offer free services.

She said the clinic received donations from the Center for Spirituality and Healing and Northwestern Health Sciences University.

Many of the students at the clinic currently receive credit for their work or will in the near future. However, University medical students are not likely to receive credit for working at the clinic anytime soon, Lebares said.

Last Saturday, the clinic treated three patients and is anticipating more traffic in the future.