synapse: University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine
Twenty Years of Providing Care for the Uninsured
Story by Anne Pershing
The University of Nevada School of Medicine's popular Student Outreach Clinic, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, was founded by students in 1996, with the goal of providing quality health care to the uninsured and underinsured residents of northern Nevada.
For two decades, the clinic has provided invaluable clinical experience to medical students interacting with patients and working with health care professionals to improve the health of Nevadans.
The Student Outreach Clinic model sees students providing free monthly medical care for the uninsured in Washoe County under the direction of faculty.
Current outreach clinic faculty advisor Dan Spogen, M.D., came aboard in 1996 as a community physician to help with the clinic when he heard some medical students wanted to start a clinic for those who couldn't afford medical care.
"I was involved at the beginning when Medicaid gave us a grant for child exams and we put together a pediatric clinic on Ninth Street in the Medicaid office. Then we got a grant for women's health care and created a women's clinic on Second Street in the medical school's internal medicine office. We also created a general clinic at the Salvation Army until 2005 and then moved it all to the Family Medicine Center," he said.
Spogen notes that there have been many changes for the better over the last 20 years.
"I remember having to write a prescription on a napkin, because we didn't have any prescription pads. The old clinics were very makeshift and somewhat limited."
When Spogen left private practice, he wanted to continue his involvement with the outreach clinic and stepped up to be its faculty advisor.
"I have a passion for teaching. I also have this passion for the patients in need, and this is an opportunity to help them. It's incredibly rewarding," he said.
"I think it's a unique service for patients who have no access to insurance and medical care," Spogen said.
"Our students provide that care. The patients and the students both benefit as the students get hands-on experience working with patients and running a clinic."
The Student Outreach Clinics are managed by current first- and second-year medical students, supervised by faculty in the Department of Family Medicine and assisted by community faculty members. All patient care is supervised by licensed medical professionals.
The Student Outreach Clinics offer services including screenings, diagnosis, lab services, x-rays, EKGs, blood pressure monitoring, immunizations, physicals and some treatments and referrals. Specialized clinics providing women's services, geriatrics and dermatology are offered in addition to general and pediatric care.
Clinics are held in the Family Medicine Center on the University of Nevada, Reno campus near Mackay Stadium at the corner of 17th Street and East Stadium Way.
The Student Outreach Clinics are made possible through support of local organizations including: the Nell J. Redfield Foundation, Abowd and Rose Financial Group and Patricia D. Cafferata, Esq. and the many volunteers over the years who have dedicated their time to improving health care in Nevada.
Second-year medical student and outgoing clinic executive director Jeremiah Pavelka, who has a background as an EMT and service with the National Guard, said that he acts as an intermediary between the students, patients and management.
"I work with the board and management. I'm the troubleshooter working outside of the clinics to address clinical operations. I'm also a point of contact for our clinic assistants, student leadership, student volunteers, the local community and medical institutions."
Pavelka said there have been recent changes physically and organizationally to the clinic structure that allows more efficient and effective care for patients, including increasing the number of clinics and the services offered.
"It could very likely become the most memorable thing I do in medical school. My goal after I graduate is to go into surgery and rural medicine. Working with the Student Outreach Clinic has helped me so much and helped build my confidence. As a result, my long term goal is to hang my white coat in Nevada."