Recently, two out of five county clinics in Sacramento were closed due to budget cuts and lack of funding. As county clinics, both the Capital Hill Health Center and the Northeast Health Center had provided medical care to those who were not able to afford health insurance.
A short blurb in The Sacramento Bee informed the community of its loss. The brief article bluntly stated, “Poor people now have three options [left] for county care.” I suppose we should be thankful that after almost half of the county clinics were shut down, the almost 1.4 million people living in Sacramento County still have a few options left. Primary Care Center, Del Paso Health Center and South City Health Center are still able and willing to help those in need. However, how they will be affected by the influx of the more than 20,000 people whose clinics have been closed is anyone’s guess.
However, there is another option for those seeking medical care who do not have health insurance.
Clínica Tepati is a nonprofit organization that’s goal is to serve the uninsured, largely Latino community of Sacramento. Founded in 1974, Clínica has provided a way for students at UC Davis to volunteer their time and efforts to providing free health care to those who, otherwise, may not receive it.
Clínica Tepati had been working out of Capital Hill Health Center on Saturdays in an effort to aid the underserved population of Sacramento County. Now that this county clinic is closing, Clínica has had to find another county clinic to work with. The move may affect the number of patients they help since some may believe that this student-run clinic has been shut down as well.
“It’s sad, because if we didn’t see them, many of the patients would not receive medical care,” says Fatima Zelada, the personnel manager for Clínica Tepati. Fatima, a bright, energetic and optimistic UC Davis student first got involved with the organization four years ago. “I honestly just stumbled upon it,” she confesses. “I was looking for a volunteer opportunity, and Clínica not only allowed me to explore my interest in the medical field, but it presented me with a way to give back to my community.”
The word “tepati” is an Aztec word that means healer, and the students involved in Clínica are truly hoping to heal a community. The group runs off of pure devotion and generosity. The undergraduate students who organize and run the group spend countless hours making sure things run smoothly and effectively. They also depend on the physicians, medical students and other undergraduates who kindly donate their time and skills to the clinic every Saturday.
Because all of their services are free, Clínica Tepati relies heavily on the generosity of outside donors. Although they suggest that patients give a small donation, many cannot afford it. “We’ve had people come back who were once patients and are now in a place where they can afford to give back. They donate money as a thank you for the help they received when they needed it most,” Fatima explains. This is a testament to the positive impact they have on the community and the difference this organization is truly helping to make.
Clínica Tepati helps more than just the patients who receive medical care; the volunteers are greatly affected, too. Fatima, who is graduating this quarter, hopes to go into the health care field and remains passionate about helping those who are disadvantaged. “I haven’t had a more wonderful experience at Davis,” she says. “The best part about Clínica is that I can see that I am actually helping, and I hope to continue that for a long time.”
DANIELLE RAMIREZ hopes that others are prompted to follow in the generous footsteps of Tepatistas and help those in need. To share your experiences of community service or to brainstorm ideas of how to help, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.