Students Propose Free Clinic for OC Residents

A pair of students appealed to the Legislative Council at their meeting last Thursday for help in establishing UC Irvine’s first student-run medical clinic in Orange County.

Two representatives of the Free Clinic Project at UCI made a presentation to the Legislative Council to bring their plans of opening a student-run clinic to the attention of ASUCI. The group hopes their project will provide free medical assistance to Orange County residents and put UC Irvine on a more equal standing in comparison to other UC campuses.

“Student-run free clinics are actually a big thing at all of the UCs, so if you look at UCSD, they have four student-run free clinics that are nationally known,” said fourth-year biology major Wei Kuo, who is the current head of the project.

As Kuo would later point out, other UC campuses including UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC Davis and others have their own student-run clinics. These clinics provide free or low-cost primary care to underprivileged groups and communities in their respective areas.

According to Kuo and his partner fourth-year pharmaceutical science major, Taryn Go, the goal of the Free Clinic Project at UCI is to provide primary care for the underserved and uninsured population of Orange County that is on par with the other UC student-run clinics. As Kuo mentioned to the Council, the UCI student clinic will provide basic medical care with little risk to the university.

“So a free clinic will not be providing specialty care, so you will not be providing services for people who need surgery or people who need emergency care or things like pediatrics. That counts as a specialty so that wouldn’t be something that we would provide that. We would provide mainly primary care and referrals for people who need specialty care.”

According to Kuo, the clinic will be staffed by UC Irvine undergraduate and medical students, and will benefit both the community and UC Irvine students in need of experience for medical school.

“This is how UCI benefits from it, so one of the things we want to do is we want to create more programs for everyone, so we can talk about mentorship programs between doctors, students and medical students and all that, so that is really exciting because many UCI students are embarking on their journey either to pharm school, med school or to dental school and all these things require clinical experience.”

The UCI Clinic will be located at the Lestonnac Free Clinic’s branch at the Garden Grove United Methodist Church. Under the current arrangement between the Free Clinic Project at UCI and the Lestonnac Clinic, they will use the medical license and supplies provided by Lestonnac for their operations. In addition, Lestonnac will train new members and cover the group with their malpractice insurance policy.

UC Irvine students will manage and run the clinic every Saturday and are scheduled to begin in December, but Kuo and Go stated the clinic is set to open as soon as Nov. 15.

However, their medical advisors, including Dr. Baotran Vo, a family care and primary care physician at the UCI Medical Center and the Executive Co-Director of UC Irvine’s Health Policy Research Institute Dr. Sheldon Greenfield are unable to provide the necessary assistance until December. Currently the clinic is expected to open on Saturday, Dec. 13 according to the group’s application, but this is unconfirmed.

The group hopes to offer letters of recommendation and course credit in addition to experience to students who complete the quarterly volunteering program. The deadline for applications for the upcoming quarter has passed, but interested students can sign up to help for winter quarter.

Additionally Kuo hopes for the program to become an important part of campus life at UC Irvine and link like-minded students together to contribute to the community and to healthcare in the community.

“We are hoping that this could become sort of like the Anteater Mentorship Program where it can become a program underneath ASUCI …  it will be a good way for students to connect, also for us to expand the program to more majors and more people.”

The presentation prompted ASUCI Executive Vice President Sanaa Khan to encourage members of the Legislative Council to reach out to the group and draft a legislation showing the Council’s support for the idea at the end of the meeting.

Some members of the council supported the idea of the clinic including Social Ecology Representative, Negin Fatahi.

“I am so glad you guys are doing this and it’s really cool, so proud of you. So I am definitely into working with you.”