One Saturday morning, fifth-year senior engineering student Melissa Ledgerwood was in a room at Imani Health Clinic with a nursing assistant. But she was fine – as a previously trained health counselor she was giving free medical advice to the nurse assistant who was without health insurance.
“She was hypertensive, diabetic and had low morale,” Ledgerwood said. “We come to find her blood pressure through the roof and that she has been diabetic for 20 years.”
The nurse assistant had no faith in changing her eating habits, and had instead set up roadblocks for herself.
“She came in with complaints of how she hated to cook,” Ledgerwood said. “She had a laundry list of complaints. I said to her, ‘You have a wall in front of you. What can we do to take a brick off that wall to give you a healthier life?'”
Struck by the tough love of Ledgerwood, the nurse assistant admitted her excuses were like houses built with straw and thatch: flimsy. The nurse assistant listed everything that she had to change, including eliminating those tempting potato chip runs at gas stations.
“At the end, [the nurse assistant] said it was so wonderful to talk to me,” Ledgerwood said. “She just needed a kick in the butt.”
The butt-kicking Ledgerwood and her colleagues dispense advice at the free Imani Health Clinic at Oak Park as they face eminent threats of losing their lease from the county of Sacramento.
Imani has been cooperatively operating for 14 years with the city at its present location in Oak Park. Meaning “faith” in Swahili, Imani began offering free health care to the African American population in and around Oak Park since 1994. However, as the city tries to cut costs and find a new source of revenue, the office space is seen as a new resource to tap.
Kelly Kahari, sophomore medical student and a co-director of Imani Health Clinic, never encountered any budget problems when she volunteered as an undergraduate at UC Davis. However, the county has gradually decreased its support for the clinic. It has locked its cupboard of resources that were once free, making them harder to come by.
Kahari said Imani used to be able to give free medication to patients at the health center.
“We are adapting now because we cannot use county medication anymore,” Kahari said. “Now we have to write [prescriptions] to Target or K-Mart. That limits medical access. We don’t know if they went to get the prescription. There used to be no barriers.”
With a looming recession hitting the economy, those who need aid most would be affected by the potential closure, like the nurse assistant.
The center also gives UC Davis undergraduates some perspective. Unlike the posh surroundings of UC Davis, Oak Park in Sacramento is home to the working poor who have stable jobs that do not offer affordable health insurance.
“You don’t see poverty in Davis, but take a 20-minute drive and you see something different,” said Nina Massouri, a sophomore international relations major. “Why is it important? We’re helping the general humanity. If it was your cousin, your father, your sister – if it was your family, you would help. And [working at Imani] you make these family relationships.”
Imani has yet another wall in front its eyes. The health clinic will have a fundraiser June 5 at Sudwerk to prepare for whatever obstacles they have to face. The center hopes to raise over $2,000 to keep its service from disappearing and the walls of its office from collapsing.
“We’re a student-run health clinic,” Kahari said. “We have barriers for health care. We are the safety net for patients that do not have [health care]. How much are we really costing the county?”
JACKSON YAN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.