november 12, 2003

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Medical students run free after-hours clinic

Julia White, a third-year medical student at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, Tulsa, loves working at Bedlam Community Health Care Clinic because, she said, "I'm seeing patients and making a difference."

What began as a challenge by OU-Tulsa medical students to get community physicians to volunteer in helping care for the uninsured in Tulsa has become a free after-hours clinic where the medical students see patients with volunteer general practice physicians and specialists from the community overseeing them.

The clinic opened its doors Aug. 28, 2003. Ninety percent of patients are members of working families, 50 percent are children; and 20 percent have psychiatric conditions. Of its first 1,000 patients, 999 had no health insurance.

"The impact of our students has been incredible in making this work," said Dr. Gerard Clancy, dean of the OU College of Medicine, Tulsa. "They are the backbone of this clinic. They manage, schedule and staff the clinic, providing excellent care under physician supervision. They have a great sense of community, dedication to the poor, and are thankful for what they have in life from the experience. Sometimes you need to stop talking, roll up your sleeves and do things differently."

One hundred fifty of the Tulsa communities practicing and retired primary care physicians and specialists have volunteered 3,000 hours at the clinic over the next year.

"The community physicians are involved because the students are there," Clancy said. "Some physicians who don't normally work with medical students truly enjoy this avenue to get to work with students."

In partnership with OU College of Pharmacy, five area pharmacies donate medications to the clinic so that we can treat most major diseases and conditions.

The Tulsa County Medical Society supports the clinic by recruiting physician volunteers, many being medical leaders from the Tulsa area hospitals, Tulsa County Medical Society, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma, and from physician groups. Community hospitals, companies, foundations and organizations - including St. John Hospital, Saint Francis Hospital, Hillcrest Hospital, Blue Cross Blue Shield, the Bovaird Foundation and 15 Rotary clubs - have provided $450,000 in start-up funds. In commemoration of International Rotary's 100th anniversary in 2005, the 15 Tulsa-area Rotary clubs will make the clinic their special project by donating both funding and immunizations for the clinic.

"But key to the whole project are the students. Their energy level keeps the more senior physicians engaged in the process," said Dr. James Crutcher, associate dean for Clinical Services. "The Bedlam project is a process unfolding. But professionals in the health care industry in Tulsa have been thankful for the start of this much-needed clinic."

The University of Oklahoma College of Medicine has served the Tulsa community since 1972. It is charged with providing clinical education each year to approximately 75 medical students and to 160 medical residents specializing in family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, psychiatry and surgery. The college-operated physician practices handle more than 200,000 patient visits annually.

Contact: Jerri Culpepper, 1-405-325-1701