Student-run clinic brings health care back to Knights Landing

Although the town of Knights Landing is located only about 30 miles from the UC Davis Medical Center, many of its residents have not seen a doctor in over three years. A team of medical students, undergraduates and volunteer physicians are changing that.

This past month, a student-run free clinic opened in Knights Landing, reducing some of the barriers to health care that rural towns, such as Knights Landing face on a regular basis.

As Phillip Buss, a first-year medical student at UC Davis and co-director of the clinic explained, the town of Knights Landing is a fairly secluded place, without any local source of health care. Most of the town’s population is migrant farm-workers and their families — a population that has historically faced significant obstacles in obtaining health care.

“Our goal is to provide culturally-sensitive, quality health care to the community of Knights Landing regardless of citizenship status or ability to pay. We hope to work on addressing some of the factors that negatively influence healthcare in rural farm-workers like those that live in Knights Landing,” Buss said.

Before the opening of the clinic, residents of Knight’s Landing had to travel 12 miles to Woodland, where the nearest health center is located. But with limited access to transportation, making it to Woodland was often an impossible task. Thus, many of these residents had not seen a physician in three years — when the last free clinic in the town closed down.

“As a result, the population is dealing with treatable ailments but they just don’t have the resources and/or information to fix the [problem],” said Dave Reyes, a senior biological sciences major and one of the undergraduate volunteers at the clinic.

Because free clinics in Knights Landing had been so successful in the past, the residents of Knights Landing advocated for one to open again. The idea for the clinic was voiced by a women’s group in Knights Landing,  “El Grupo de Mujeres,” that had formed in recent years to combat various social issues in and around Knights Landing. They then joined with the Knights Landing Community Engagement Project in the hopes of getting something started.

In 2009, the group reached out to Natalia Deeb-Sossa, a professor of Chicano/a Studies at UC Davis who had worked with the community before. She then contacted some medical students at UC Davis Medical School. Three years later, with the help of undergraduates, medical students, volunteer physicians, and students from the school of public health, the clinic opened as a satellite clinic of Clinica Tepati, another UC Davis student-run free clinic.

“Many residents have not seen a doctor in a number of years and are very thankful to now have a clinic in their community,” said Meilissa Moreno, a junior human development major and pre-nursing student who volunteers at the clinic.

The clinic will be open every third Sunday of the month and will be staffed by medical, nursing and undergraduate students, and supervised by two to three volunteer physicians.

The clinic will provide mainly general family practice services and is set up for acute care but will also help manage long-term chronic illnesses such as arthritis and diabetes. They will also provide general wellness services such as healthy check-ups, routine health screenings, pap smears, cholesterol and blood pressure screenings, and other laboratory and blood tests.

“We can perform laboratory tests for free through the [UC Davis Medical Center]. We will also be doing health education, and will possible be expanding into other areas of community outreach in the future,” Buss said.

Starting as early as the fall of next year, they hope to offer vaccinations and general and specific health classes.

The first official day the clinic was open to patients was on Feb. 19. Directors and volunteers alike agreed the first day was highly successful.

“Everyone, patients and volunteers alike, were so excited to be there,” said Alexa Calfee, a first-year medical student and co-director of the clinic with Buss.

They saw a total of 13 patients and have contact information for five others who were forced to turn away due to time constraints.

“We saw so many patients that we had to schedule appointments or some of them to come to the next open clinic day. Overall, it was a very rewarding experience,” Reyes said.

Funding for the clinic is provided by various private donors, the clinic’s own funding efforts, and the Rural PRIME Program at the medical school, which helps pay for supplies and equipment.

“We are actively searching for ways to raise more money so we can expand our patient services,” Buss said.

Currently, the clinic is working on a fundraiser with Nugget Markets who have a program that allows people to shop at any Nugget Market or Food For Less location and Nugget Market will donate a percentage of what was spent each month to the clinic.

“We are really looking forward to this because no large grocery stores exist in Knights Landing. So, residents often shop at the Food For Less and Nugget in Woodland. It is no cost to the shopper, which is also really great,” Calfee said.

Although most involved with the clinic agree that operating once a month is not enough, they are hoping to first establish a firm grounding before expanding the clinic.

“Right now we’re focusing on establishing a solid foothold. But in the future we hope to be able to expand our services with various specialty clinics as well as the possibility of opening our doors to more than once a month,” Buss said.

CLAIRE MALDARELLI can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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