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Rising from the ashes: U-M Medical School Student-Run Free Clinic reopens with funds from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation and community

After devastating fire, and months in a temporary location, students and Faith Clinic partners open new location in downtown Pinckney to serve uninsured

DETROIT –  A free health care clinic run by University of Michigan medical students and faculty has reopened in a brand-new location in downtown Pinckney, months after a devastating fire ripped through the location it had shared with Faith Medical Clinic, a long-established safety net clinic.

Fueled by a $30,000 grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, and an outpouring of more than $30,000 from the community, the U-M Medical School’s Student Run Free Clinic (SRFC) has begun serving uninsured adult patients every Saturday afternoon from a newly renovated location at 103 E. Main St. in the Livingston County community. It shares the location with Faith Medical Clinic.

“The perseverance of our students, and their partners in the Faith Clinic, despite the tragedy that occurred in February, shows how dedicated they are to serving the community’s health needs,” says Hari Conjeevaram, M.D., the medical director of the SRFC and a professor of internal medicine at the U-M Medical School. “The support from the foundation, and from our many individual donors, including our own students and faculty, will make it possible to continue that mission.” 

The new BCBSMF grant matches funds raised by medical students since the fire. The funds are helping the SRFC pay for part of the cost of renovations at the new location, and operating expenses and supplies. The Faith Clinic is also a recipient BCBSM’s strengthening the safety net program funds, and broad community support.

In the months since the fire, both the SRFC and Faith Clinic have continued to serve patients from a temporary location – the former home of the Pinckney Community Library – but the new location is customized for their use.

“Of the more than 500,000 uninsured residents in Michigan, nearly half live below the poverty line,” said Ira Strumwasser, Ph.D., executive director of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation. “Safety net clinics, such as the SRFC and Faith clinic, are crucial to residents without the coverage or money to pay for care desperately needed to stay healthy and manage chronic conditions.  We applaud the work of these clinics and are committed to supporting their efforts to provide free and low-cost health care to those who need it most.”

U-M medical students await patients at the Student Run Free Clinic intake desk

U-M medical students Philip Asamoah and Chelsea Reighard await patients at the Student Run Free Clinic intake desk

The SRFC gives students in their first years of medical school experience in running all aspects of a primary care clinic, under the supervision of volunteer physician advisors from the U-M Medical School faculty. This gives them exposure to patient care even before they reach the clinical training years of their medical education. They also confront first-hand the realities of health disparities.

Additionally, medical students in their third and fourth years of training experience first-hand taking care of patients and mentoring first- and second-year students.

Each Saturday afternoon, the medical students see adult patients for free, under the supervision of volunteer physician advisors from the U-M Medical School faculty. The Faith Clinic team sees patients at the same location on Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings.

The SRFC has also partnered with U-M School of Public Health students, who are conducting a needs assessment, and SRFC leaders are working with administrators at the U-M School of Dentistry and School of Nursing to find ways to collaborate in the future. Other U-M students will also participate in the clinic, helping patients understand the new insurance options available to them under the Affordable Care Act and Michigan’s Medicaid expansion. 

U-M medical students opened the SRFC as a pilot in April 2012 and fully in October 2012, to provide care for community members without insurance. Already, the clinic has handled over 400 patient visits for conditions including diabetes and high blood pressure, and has provided preventive care services including routine checkups and women’s health services. More than 150 students and 25 faculty physicians have accumulated thousands of volunteer hours.

Student takes a patient's blood pressure

U-M medical student Maksim Shlykov takes a patient's blood pressure at the Student Run Free Clinic

“We're inspired by the leadership and by the enthusiasm our students have brought to this important work,” says Joseph Kolars, M.D., senior associate dean for education and global initiatives at the U-M Medical School.

After the fire, the students appealed to the U-M and Ann Arbor communities to donate – and their appeal was rewarded by more than $30,000 in donations, as small as a dollar and as large as $9,000.

The BCBSMF provided a matching grant of $30,000 as part of its commitment to broadening access of care throughout Michigan, especially for the vulnerable and poor. While these contributions have been instrumental to Faith Clinic and SRFC, the partners continue to seek donations to fund equipment, furniture, medical supplies, and ongoing operations to serve the community.  Donations to support the clinic’s efforts can be made online.

About Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation is dedicated to improving the health of Michigan residents by supporting health care research and innovative health programs. The BCBSM Foundation's grant programs are conducted in Michigan by Michigan-based researchers and nonprofit community health care organizations.

Over the past 25 years, the BCBSM Foundation has contributed approximately $50 million in grants for research and $10 million for community health programs. This funding has resulted in enhancements to quality, patient safety and access to care for the people of Michigan. The foundation also supports efforts to control the rising costs of health care through research, demonstration and evaluation projects.

The BCBSM Foundation is the philanthropic affiliate of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. The foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For more information, visit bcbsm.com/foundation.

For more company information, visit www.bcbsm.com and mibluesperspectives.com.

About the U-M Medical School

The U-M Medical School, established in 1850, is a key part of the University of Michigan Health System -- a national leader in advanced patient care, innovative research to improve human health and comprehensive education of physicians, health professionals and medical scientists. The 1,700 faculty physicians in the Medical School’s Faculty Group Practice serve patients from every county in Michigan and other states and nations at the U-M Hospitals & Health Centers and the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System. The Medical School has one of the largest biomedical research communities and budgets in the county, and leads innovation in medical and scientific education and training.

For more about the U-M Student Run Free Clinic, visit http://umhealth.me/um-srfc  

For more about the Faith Medical Clinic, visit http://www.faithmedicalclinic.net/

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