When fifth-year environmental toxicology major Marianne So was volunteering at the UC Davis student-run Bayanihan Clinic, it was located on V Street in Sacramento, less than a mile from a similar organization, Shifa Clinic, located on the same street.
Although So knew friends at Shifa Clinic, she thought it was interesting that they had never carpooled from Davis together. In the beginning of 2014, So started the Interclinic Consortium in an attempt to organize collaboration between the nine undergraduate, student-run clinics operating in Sacramento with the help of UC Davis medical students and undergraduates.
“When I was with Bayanihan Clinic as both a board member and an undergraduate volunteer, I saw that there was little collaboration between all the different student-run free clinics,” said So, who currently serves as director of the consortium.
It took a total of three years from the idea’s inception to its fruition. So specifically spent her time garnering support from faculty members, board members and medical students at the clinics.
“At first it was difficult, but now everyone is on board and we’re working toward sharing resources and building that strong connection between all the student-run free clinics,” So said.
The consortium functions through a series of meetings and discussions on the topic of what the clinics have in common and how they can work together. Every month the consortium hosts an “interclinic affairs” meeting — a gathering with a select group of board members from every clinic.
“We talk about common obstacles and common goals, for example how the Affordable Care Act is affecting our patient populations. Another example is that vision and dental services are the top two services most requested by patients, so [we’ve discussed] how can we combine our resources to serve those patients in need of those services.”
The differences between the clinics are also a factor in their collaboration. According to student-run clinic manager Ed Dagang, some clinics may have resources that others do not, and the interclinic consortium is working to take advantage of that.
“The ultimate goal is to open the lines of communications between each of the clinics so each clinic has a sense of what is taking place in their particular communities and their facilities — upcoming events, sharing of information, resources, opportunities such as grants, fundraising and information about upcoming recruitment application cycles for new volunteers,” Dagang said.
Dr. Darin Latimore, a liaison for the UC Davis Medical School, emphasized the need for these student-run clinics in Sacramento.
“These students are very altruistic; they really are providing a service in the greater Sacramento area,” Latimore said. “The county of Sacramento has few services for the uninsured, and almost zero services for the undocumented. So if it wasn’t for these clinics, especially the undocumented, but many other people really would not have access.”
The clinics rely on volunteers with various levels of experience. Undergraduate students might be tasked with checking vitals like temperature and blood pressure, which are then presented to medical students.
“The medical students see the patients, they’ll do an exam and order labs depending on the chief complaint and they present the patient to the preceptor who reviews all that and makes final determination on patient care,” Latimore said.
The preceptors are licensed physicians who volunteer at each of the clinics. Some are UC Davis physicians, but most are simply from the community.
“They’re from all over, from all different health systems, private practice [and] local — I knew one who even came periodically from the Bay Area. Many of them actually were UC Davis students once upon a time,” Latimore said.
By linking all the clinics together, the Interclinic Consortium also serves as a way to collect data as a means of better serving the patient population. The consortium’s website reads the importance of “recognizing community needs by using data as building blocks for change.” So said data collection and use is a major component of the consortium.
“There’s a lot of potential in data, [especially]what it could reveal about our patient population [and] how effective our clinic services are,” So said. “Those are really important questions, instead of just assuming that our services are good.”
This sentiment is reflected in what So sees as the second half of the consortium, a research component which includes a team of over 40 people, most of which are undergraduate researchers. They conduct weekly surveys at five of the nine clinics, with plans to eventually reach all clinics, to collect demographic data, including racial identity, income and most common illnesses, as well as patient feedback.
“The goal is to not just have people surveying for the project, it’s also to inspire our research members, most of whom are pre-health oriented, to think holistically about medicine,” So said. “It’s not just about serving the patients in need, it’s about asking the questions behind why a patient might not be getting access to care that they need.”
So said the project is still in the early stages, emphasizing data collection, but analyzing preliminary data has already led to a greater knowledge of the clinics’ shared obstacles. Specifically, So believes clinics can use the information gathered to make decisions about what services are needed or desired among their patients.
On top of patient-oriented research, So is planning to speak with undergraduate students working at the clinics about how their experience has affected their education and career ambitions. Tanvi Desai is a third-year neurobiology, physiology and behavior major at UC Davis who has volunteered at the Willow Clinic for over a year.
“Working at the Willow Clinic [and] interacting with doctors and other college students … gave me a broader knowledge about how the health system works, the policies [involved] and how they affect people,” Desai said.
Desai said she was inspired to work at the Willow Clinic in particular based on her experience seeing poverty and homelessness while growing up in India.
“After coming [to America], I found that this is the one clinic that caters to the homeless population,” Desai said. “It was similar to what I see myself doing in the future.”
“Each clinic has a target population, but by no means is that the only population that they serve,” Latimore said. “Every clinic is different, some of them are much smaller than others, and how many [patients] each one sees varies drastically from clinic to clinic. Some clinics may only see six or seven on a given day, others may see 25.”
Each of the nine clinics was founded to serve a target community: the Willow Clinic was founded to provide services to the homeless of Sacramento, the Bayanihan clinic began with a focus on serving WWII veterans but has shifted their attention to the Filipino community, the Paul Hom Asian Clinic has a focus on the Asian community, the Imani Clinic was intended to serve the African American community, Clinica Tepati is primarily concerned with the Latino community while its sister clinic, Knights Landing, emphasizes services for rural farm-workers and promotes the linkage of human, environmental and animal health, the Shifa Clinic services the Muslim community and the Joan Viteri Memorial Clinic helps high risk populations such as drug users and sex workers.
Dagang said that the student-run clinics are in need of more physicians to act as preceptors. Those interested can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos Courtesy of the Interclinic Consortium