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Greg Lester

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June 11, 2003

Penn Medical Students Awarded AAMC Funding Grant for Community Clinic

Run By Students & Supervised by Faculty, Clinic Offers Free Medical Care to the East Parkside Community of West Philadelphia

(Philadelphia, PA) -Students at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have received a "Caring for Community" grant in support of the United Community Clinics Project, which provides free basic medical care, referrals, and counseling to residents of West Philadelphia.

The four-year supplemental grant is one of eight proposals awarded this year by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), in collaboration with the Pfizer Medical Humanities Initiative. The "Caring for Community" program provides funding for community health projects initiated, developed, and run by medical students. The goal of the program is to encourage students to identify unique or unexplored avenues of community service. The United Community Clinics Project program will receive $7,685 this year and, when they meet their pre-established goals, will be eligible to apply for additional funding over the next three years.

"We plan on using this funding to expand our services and purchase more medical supplies," said medical student Rick Vidal who, along with student Diane Li, serves as the clinic's medical coordinator, supervising week-to-week operations. "We are also looking to work with colleagues at the Penn School of Dental Medicine to provide more dental care and education - a pressing need for our local community."

Founded by Penn medical students in 1996, the United Community Clinics Project offers free basic medical care and preventive health screening, social services and counseling, medical referrals, and health education. The clinic is run by medical students, although direct patient care is supervised by School of Medicine faculty. In addition, Penn students in dentistry, nursing, and social work also staff the clinic, volunteering their time and expertise to help the disadvantaged find the medical care and social services they need. Each year, approximately 600 patients come to the clinic, located in the First African Presbyterian Church on Girard Avenue in the East Parkside section of West Philadelphia.

"Every Monday night, these students learn how to deal with real world clinical situations, from check-ups, to tuberculosis screenings, to seeing that your patient gets follow-up care," said Harvey Rubin, MD, PhD, Associate Dean for Student Affairs at Penn's School of Medicine. "It is valuable in helping students gain a deeper appreciation of the challenges that they will face as practicing physicians, and it is entirely their energy that keeps the clinic moving."

Over the last three years, the Pfizer Medical Humanities Initiative has provided more than $500,000 to fund the AAMC Caring for Community grant program. Forty medical-student programs and projects at as many medical schools nationwide have received support since the program's inception in 2000.

"These eight Caring for Community grants recognize medical students' commitment to bettering the communities in which they live, as well as their professionalism, knowledge, and skills. The students who participate in these projects will meet people who will open their eyes to new challenges and change their attitudes and perceptions of what it means to be a physician. I expect that, as a result, the students will benefit at least as much as the people they will serve, if not more," said Robert Sabalis, PhD, associate vice president of student affairs and programs for the AAMC.

The 2003 grantees are: University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Medical College of Wisconsin, Ohio State University College of Medicine, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, Rush Medical College, University of California - Irvine College of Medicine, University of Kansas Medical Center, and University of Miami School of Medicine.

"The beauty of this program is that it not only taps into the students' flow of creativity, energy, and commitment to service, but also changes the lives of real people and helps create for them a brighter future," said Mike Magee, MD, director of the Pfizer Medical Humanities Initiative.

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