DeSales Physician Assistant Students Establish Free Clinic To Bring Health Care To The Homeless
Students and faculty members in the DeSales University Physician Assistant Program have established a free clinic, in an effort to bring health care to the homeless.
Since Thursday, January 18, the DeSales Free Clinic, located in the Allentown Rescue Mission, 355 Hamilton St., Allentown, Pa., has been open from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. each Thursday, to serve the homeless of the Mission.
The Free Clinic is a project initiated, organized and initially funded by the DeSales Physician Assistant (PA) students. Patients are those who are served by the Mission's emergency homeless shelter, drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, and long-term shelter.
"This is a very worthwhile service project for the PA students, as it provides an opportunity for them to intervene and do what they can to help," said Wayne Stuart, M.D., assistant professor in the DeSales PA Program, who teaches anatomy, clinical skills, history and physical exam. "Educationally, it is excellent because students will see things they wouldn't ordinarily under normal circumstances."
The clinic is staffed by students and faculty members in the DeSales PA Program, which includes 80 students and five faculty members. A team consisting of four graduate students in the PA Program and one faculty member assumes responsibility for running and operating the clinic on a rotating basis. In addition to Dr. Stuart, faculty members include Christine Bruce, director of the DeSales PA Program; Kathleen Ehrhardt, academic coordinator; and Rebecca Rosenberger and Terry Russo, clinical coordinators.
Although initially the clinic will serve the homeless at the Mission, eventually, the DeSales faculty and students would like the Free Clinic to serve a broader population of those with needs, including those who are not insured or underinsured.
"The Mission, with its annual client population of more than 700 homeless people, is very enthusiastic about partnering with DeSales in this endeavor," said Gary Millspaugh, executive director with The Allentown Rescue Mission. "While providing a tremendous value-added service to homeless people and the Mission, the DeSales students will learn, train, pursue their practice, gain real-world experience."
According to Millspaugh, health problems are a major impediment to the recovery process from homelessness, back to the community. A homeless person who is suffering or distracted by an illness, injury, disability, chronic condition or acute disorder, cannot find a job and succeed in changing his circumstances. Bringing health care closer to the homeless in an environment where they are comfortable is a major step in ending homelessness sooner, said Millspaugh.
The Mission has been providing services to the Allentown and surrounding communities for over 100 years. The DeSales Free Clinic has been set-up in two remodeled rooms in the Mission. According to Brian Phillips, program director at the Mission, during the winter months, there is an average of about 60 people staying in the Emergency Homeless Shelter. In warmer months, there are about 30 to 40.
The focus of the clinic is on acute minor illness, health promotion and preventive medicine, and chronic illness control. By policy, narcotics will not be used, prescribed, or stocked in the clinic. Emergencies will be referred to Sacred Heart Hospital, 4th and Chew streets, just a few blocks from the Mission.
Brett Feldman, a PA student from Jamison, Pa., was instrumental in introducing the idea of The DeSales Free Clinic. He and his wife, Corinne, had volunteered at a homeless clinic in Chicago, where she was attending PA school at Midwestern University. They gained a great deal from the experience and wanted to volunteer at a similar clinic when they moved to the Lehigh Valley, but learned there was none. In order to alleviate the problem, Feldman decided to approach the DeSales PA faculty and students, who were eager to help. He initiated the process by drafting a proposal and securing funds through donations and contributions. Funding is under the not-for-profit status of the University.
"Our greatest challenge is funding," said Feldman. "Although the clinic services are free to our clients, we need money to cover the cost of basic medical supplies and equipment. Students, faculty and staff are working with the University administration in the on-going fund-raising effort."
According to Galen Godbey, associate to the president for globalization at DeSales, the University already has received several grants and donations of pharmaceuticals and equipment. Among the organizations is The Hackett Foundation, Inc., which will present a grant of over $8,000 to DeSales later this month.
Given the transient status of the homeless, it is difficult to monitor them or to follow-up with them, said Feldman. The DeSales Free Clinic had to be accessible so the homeless could walk there and get care. The Allentown Rescue Mission is in the heart of the city and an ideal location. It will provide quality medical care, as all providers working there will be physicians and physician assistants.
"I hope the clinic will serve as an oasis of sound medical information and education for the community and for a segment of the population with which it is otherwise difficult to establish relationships," said Feldman.
For more information, contact Wayne Stuart, M.D., assistant professor in the DeSales University Physician Assistant Program, at 610-282-1100, ext. 1344, or at Wayne.Stuart@DeSales.edu.
Press Release: DeSales Physician Assistant Students Establish Free Clinic To Bring Health Care To The Homeless | Posted on: 6/7/2007
For more info:
Tom McNamara, Executive Director of Communications
DeSales University | 2255 Station Avenue | Center Valley, PA 18034
610.282.1100 x1219 | Tom.McNamara@desales.edu