The Equal Access Clinic, a series of student-run free health care clinics started by the University of Florida’s medical school, gives Gainesville residents who cannot afford health care access to free medical services.
The Mobile Outreach Clinic reaches locations where low-income recipients who cannot travel into the city can have access to medical attention in addition to the eight clinic locations and four specialty clinics.
The Equal Access Clinic allows University of Florida premed undergraduate students and current medical students to provide care to low-income populations while gaining practical experience. The facilities are supervised by UF faculty and staff members.
The clinics open in the evening, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 or 9:30 p.m. depending on the location, and serve about 40 to 50 patients a week, in addition to the specialty clinic patients.
Four specialty clinics provide services Monday through Thursday including: dental care, physical therapy, women’s services and mental health therapy.
“Most (students) want to help patients,” said Brian McDaniel, a second-year UF medical student who serves as the senior operations chair at the mobile east clinic. “You get to see different patient populations you won’t usually see. It’s also interdisciplinary. There are students here who are PA students, medical students of all ages, pharmacy students and clinical psychology students. There are a lot of different views.”
The locations for the clinics were chosen based on populations with greater frequencies of domestic abuse and Medicaid, McDaniel said. Most patients come in for treatments of chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.
“This is a great experience to get to know the community and get to know Gainesville,” said Blaine Farmer, a co-director of the Equal Access Clinic. “When I worked here as a student, I got to talk to patients and make a real difference. We welcome shadows and undergraduates and other health professions.”
UF College of Medicine, county programs, research and national grants and CHOICES, a health services program offered by Alachua County, help fund the clinic and provide medical help to working, uninsured residents of Alachua County.
Farmer said this may be the last year for donations from CHOICES, because the program’s funding is slated to be completely cut by the end of the fiscal year.
The clinic began a tax-deductible endowment this year, and the students host a 5K philanthropy at UF each year and sell Equal Access T-shirts.
Sharon McCray went back to the clinic for a second time instead of visiting the emergency room. She said her second time attending was much better than the first.
“You get one on one,” she said. “I like the way they was working with me patiently. It seems like they care. I mean it’s free.”
Dana Edwards wrote this story online.