The Brooklyn Free Clinic is one of many programs supported in part by medical alumni
Photo courtesy of SUNY Downstate
The student-run Brooklyn Free Clinic moves to the University Hospital of Brooklyn January 4, 2017, on the SUNY Downstate campus, after a decade at its first home, UHB Health Associates at 840 Lefferts Avenue. The clinic had borrowed the office space after hours.
The new location, Suite A on the first floor near the University Hospital entrance, is already a working clinic, but was also available to the Brooklyn Free Clinic, 5 pm to 7 pm, Wednesdays. The difference is that BFC patients will now be closer to a larger health network if they need a referral or emergency care, said Shifra Mincer, second-year Downstate medical student, and BFC communications officer.
The location is also more convenient for student and physician volunteers coming from class or work, she said. This may encourage more doctors to volunteer as attending physicians, which could expand the clinic’s capacity to help Brooklyn’s underserved, and provide more students with valuable training.
“We’re swamped on Wednesdays,” Mincer said. “People make appointments in advance, and we try to take walk-ins, based on what we can do. If we could get two attendings one night, we could move much faster.”
The clinic is run by a team of students from across Downstate, the colleges of Medicine and Nursing, the College of Health Related Professions and School of Public Health. Students handle everything from scheduling and administrative work, to screening and caring for patients, overseen by attending physicians and faculty advisors. Patients are often referred to a network of specialists who agree to treat them for free.
“The proximity (of the new clinic location) to the rest of the hospital has multiple benefits – easier access for volunteer attending physicians, closer proximity of referral services for patients, better synchronization of medical records with Downstate systems, and consolidation of care into a single locale,” said Patrick Eucalitto, third-year medical student and Chief Operations Officer for the Brooklyn Free Clinic. “This simplifies the often daunting task that patients face when navigating multiple providers.”
The team will miss the clinic’s first home, he said, but the move will be positive for volunteers, patients and students. Mincer agrees.
“One of the most important things about the clinic, in addition to serving people who wouldn’t otherwise get care, is that it’s an opportunity for students to learn and to practice in real life what we’re learning about. Normally, students don’t get to do that until third year,” Mincer said. “This is an opportunity for us to actually practice. It’s a double mission of serving people and learning.”
Working with students from other disciplines is also an opportunity to practice “socially conscious” healthcare, she said. It’s a collaboration.
“BFC leadership is using the move as a strategic opportunity for self-assessment, reevaluation, growth, and change, and we’re really excited about it,” Eucalitto said. “We get a chance to rethink our logistics, to recreate a clinical environment that reflects our organization’s core values of access, education, and inclusivity, and to optimize our unique balance between student education and excellent patient care for those who need it most.”
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