My name is Omid Behbahani-Nejad and I am currently a first-year medical student at Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED). Today I have the pleasure of interviewing John Hill, a fourth-year medical student at NEOMED who helped start the SOAR Student-Run Free Clinic located in the NEW Center. He has been critical to the planning and launching of the clinic. He currently serves as the chief medical officer and as a volunteer for SOAR. John will be beginning his Emergency Medicine residency at Cleveland Clinic Akron General next year.
Hi John, nice to meet you. The clinic has taken off to a strong start this year. Can you tell us about your role and responsibilities?
I have been involved with the clinic for the past four years in medical school. I started during my first year working with the school and other students in planning the start of the clinic. Initially we met with prospective community partners hoping to open a clinic in either Ravenna or Alliance. As I started my second year of school I was leading a small dedicated group of students towards opening the clinic with the goal of opening the clinic on NEOMED’s campus in Rootstown. Now as a fourth-year medical student, I fill the role of chief medical officer for the clinic. I help coordinate a fourth-year elective, assist with grant writing and research, I work as a team leader and chief on the Saturday’s we are open and I help lead the dedicated 150 volunteers who work in the clinic and behind the scenes.
Why do you think is it important to have a student-run free clinic available to the community?
Right now we are the only free health clinic in Portage county and there is a huge need for healthcare services. There are approximately 16,000 individuals without health insurance in Portage County currently. Also, 22% or 27,000 adults did not see a physician last year because of the cost of seeing a doctor. That is where our student-run free clinic steps in to fill the gap, providing a place for these people to receive healthcare and get healthier without the financial burden.
What do you enjoy most about volunteering at the free clinic?
I most enjoy helping people as cliché as that sounds. I enjoy calming patients fears, helping people understand their health and helping them improve their quality of life. A close second is helping teach the medical and pharmacy students that volunteer in the clinic. This is a unique and important experience in becoming a physician especially for the first and second year students who don’t get a lot of clinical experience in the beginning of their education.
What significant goals has the clinic accomplished this year and what are some goals the clinic has in mind for the future?
The clinic has exceeded all my expectations and blown past all our goals. Five months after we opened we had reached our patient goal for the year. In fact, we are currently planning on adding more Saturday clinics about 6 months ahead of schedule. The other goal we have been successful in is diagnosing patients with insidious diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure and starting them on early treatment. These diseases are insidious because they come on gradually, often without a person having any symptoms but are still causing damage. Early diagnosis and treatment allows for a better and healthier life, as well as saving them a trip to the hospital after the disease has silently done major damage.
Looking forward we hope to increase the number of days our clinic is open and to grow the number of patients we help care for. We are currently considering grants to expand the number and types of services we can provide without cost to our patients. We are also hoping to provide some onsite point of care testing. We already draw blood and send it to a lab at no cost to our patients, however point of care testing will allow us to perform the test in the clinic and provide the results of these tests to the patient during their visit. Thus, allowing us to make quicker decisions about treatment with our patients. It’ll also be a great opportunity for students to learn how to do point of care testing.
Could you list five important resources the clinic offers to the local community?
Free physical exams.
Free basic lab tests.
Free health and disease management.
Free medication therapy management visits with pharmacists.
Free preventive services and health education.
For those who do not already know, how often is the free clinic open and what are the typical business hours like?
We are typically open the first and third Saturdays of each month from 9:00am to 12:00pm. You can call us at 330-552-7080 to schedule an appoint or you can walk-in anytime we are open.
Thanks for your time John. We are truly grateful for all the help you have provided the surrounding community as well as the opportunity to enrich student education at NEOMED.
Author: Omid Behbahani-Nejad