“Just say ‘Ahhh…’”

CLEVELAND - “Say ‘ahhh.’” That is what Case Western Reserve University student doctors and nurses will be telling patients with sore throats and other health problems Saturday, Oct. 22, during the grand opening of the Student-Run Free Clinic at The Free Medical Clinic of Greater Cleveland, 12201 Euclid Ave.

Case Western Reserve’s initiative is interprofessional, allowing medical and nursing students to work together in teams and learn from each other while providing care to patients. They, along with volunteer faculty supervising their work, are providing much-needed community service to The Free Clinic, which provides access to health care for Cleveland’s uninsured people.

The student clinic will see about 15 to 20 uninsured patients on a first come, first served basis between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month. The clinic is not typically open on Saturdays, so the student effort offers an option for working patients that otherwise would not be available.

Patients will have acute needs like flu, viral and bacterial infections, sexually transmitted diseases, and other health issues that do not require follow-up care, said student clinic directors David Lawrence from the School of Medicine and Alyssa Wagner from the School of Nursing. Both are second-year students.

Overseeing the student care are volunteer medical doctors and licensed nurse practitioners. Marlene Weinstein, MD, medical director of The Free Clinic, will provide consistent staff support as an attending preceptor at the Student-Run Free Clinic. Wanda Cruz-Knight, MD, Case Western Reserve University professor of family medicine, and Carol Savrin, DNP, FNP,BC, FAANP,CPNP, associate professor of nursing, Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, serve as the clinic’s faculty advisors.

“Every step of the patient care is supervised by a physician or licensed nurse practitioner,” said Dr. Weinstein, who has given six years of service at The Free Clinic.

Interprofessional teams of medical and nursing students will triage, conduct examinations, diagnose, and provide treatment for the patients, with the assistance of Dr. Weinstein and other volunteer medical doctors.

Volunteer case managers, both medical and nursing students, have received special training from Recovery Resources to help address some of the patients’ social health challenges, including issues like access to health care and housing.

The Student-Run Free Clinic was designed by Case Western Reserve University students, who proposed the idea after learning about the concept at a national conference on family medicine.

“The Student-Run Free Clinic is a superior example of the socially-minded, self-motivated students we recruit to Case Western Reserve University. The medical and nursing students’ commitment to working together from the onset of their careers offers great promise for the future of health care, as does their dedication to helping serve those in our community,” said Pamela Davis, MD, PhD, dean of the School of Medicine, vice president for medical affairs, and the Arline H. and Curtis F. Garvin, MD, Research Professor.

Medical student-run clinics are popular in medical schools. Approximately 49 percent of the 124 Association of American Medical Colleges surveyed reported having at least one, according to the Journal of General Internal Medicine (2007). The environment at the Case Western Reserve clinic fosters and encourages collaboration between future doctors and nurses, said Lawrence. The student clinic reflects changes in health care delivery with this new team approach.

For two years, a Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation grant to the nursing and medical schools has built communication skills between future doctors and nurses. The professional students have participated in seminars and simulations with actor patients to build communication skills and working relationships. This clinic carries the classroom learning into the practice.

The experience has awakened an appreciation of what each profession brings to patient care, Wagner said.

"I am very excited about the creation of the Student-Run Free Clinic," said Mary E. Kerr, PhD, FAAN, dean and May L. Wykle Endowed Professor at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing. "Its collaborative goal to provide real-life, practical experience for students as they meet the healthcare needs of the underserved community fits perfectly with our own mission of interdisciplinary scholarship and practice."

The project has been so popular that there were more student volunteers than available spots. Students take turns volunteering in different roles at the clinic, as both case managers and clinicians.

This clinic provides a valuable service to Cleveland’s uninsured. Many patients transfer buses, ride their bikes for miles or even walk to reach The Free Clinic.

This clinic builds on other medical services available to walk-in patients seeking help at The Free Clinic. One service is the dental clinic staffed by student dentists from the Case Western Reserve School of Dental Medicine who serve under the supervision of The Free Clinic’s dental director, Lauren Goldschmidt, DMD. Another is the free ophthalmology clinic, staffed and operated by Case Western Reserve undergraduate and medical students, along with doctors and residents from University Hospitals Case Medical Center.

“We’re eager and excited to be here,” said medical student and volunteer Nicholas Kucher.

Studies have shown that the doctors with the highest patient satisfaction are the ones that get the most clinical experience in medical school, Kucher said. “Being around patients, particularly those who we serve at our Free Clinic, will help all of us treat, interact with, and connect with patients. The clinic is also a unique way to see behind the scenes what it takes to operate health care. This will help whether we need to know how a hospital runs or if we're interested in starting our own clinics.”

The walk-in clinic is located at 12201 Euclid Ave. For general information, visit srfc.case.edu or email srfc@case.edu.

To watch a video of the students in action, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T95TG1bEZGk.

Founded in 1843, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine is the largest medical research institution in Ohio and is among the nation's top medical schools for research funding from the National Institutes of Health. The School of Medicine is recognized throughout the international medical community for outstanding achievements in teaching. The School's innovative and pioneering Western Reserve2 curriculum interweaves four themes--research and scholarship, clinical mastery, leadership, and civic professionalism--to prepare students for the practice of evidence-based medicine in the rapidly changing health care environment of the 21st century. Nine Nobel Laureates have been affiliated with the School of Medicine.

Annually, the School of Medicine trains more than 800 MD and MD/PhD students and ranks in the top 25 among U.S. research-oriented medical schools as designated by U.S. News & World Report's "Guide to Graduate Education."

The School of Medicine is affiliated with University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, MetroHealth Medical Center, the Louis Stokes Cleveland Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and the Cleveland Clinic, with which it established the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University in 2002. case.edu/medicine.