Sojourner Clinic mini-medical school serves dual purpose

Students from area schools took part in a workshop on casting during a mini-med school program on June 27 to raise funds for the Sojourner Clinic.
Students from area schools took part in a workshop on casting during a mini-med school program on June 27 to raise funds for the Sojourner Clinic.

The School of Medicine’s Sojourner Clinic conducted a mini-medical school program on June 27 with a dual purpose: to give area high school and college undergraduate students interested in medicine a brief primer into the health care field, and to raise money for the student-run free health clinic.

Members of the school’s various medical interest groups gave half-hour workshops and lectures ranging from how to treat a choking patient to performing CPR, to discussing heart anatomy. While project organizers hoped the event would encourage interested students to purse a career in medicine, a larger goal was to raise funds to support the free Sojourner Clinic that serves as a safety net for Kansas City’s inner-city homeless population.

Apurva Bhatt, MS 6, co-executive director of the Sojourner Clinic, said the 11-year-old student-run health clinic has nearly doubled its number of patients and overall patient visits in the past year. The clinic operates each Sunday, year-round, from approximately noon to 3 p.m. at Kansas City’s Grand Avenue Temple United Methodist Church. In the past year, the clinic has added patient rooms and improved its efficiency, as well as successfully incorporated students from the school’s Physician Assistant program. It has also launched a Smile Clinic to bring in dental hygiene students. On top of that, the clinic is taking care of a growing number of urgent care needs and, in some cases, providing treatments.

All that growth, however, is something of a double-edged sword.

“Our major expense is the medications,” Bhatt said. “We don’t have enough funds to provide for all the medication we need for the next year. We’ve expanded the clinic and we’re seeing more patients and that means we need more medications.”

Bhatt said the clinic has grown to seeing an average of 30 patients a day. Last year, 502 individual patients made more than 1,560 visits to Sojourner Clinic. About 60 to 80 percent of the clinic’s funding goes to purchasing needed medications, with the remainder primarily covering lab equipment.

“A lot of our patients treat us as their primary health care home,” Bhatt said. “We have a lot of changes going on, and our patients are appreciative and happy with the changes.”

Bhatt said she hoped the students who visited the mini-med school came away equally impressed. Members of interest groups from emergency medicine, internal medicine, cardiology, orthopaedics and family medicine took part in providing the workshops.

The Missouri Area Health Education Center, a network that promotes health care careers, partnered with the Sojourner Clinic in organizing and attracting students for the mini-medical school.

Bhatt said the clinic relies on funding through grants and donations. “As we expand and see more patients, we’re finding ourselves underfunded for the upcoming year,” she said. “This is one of the creative fundraisers that is helping us fill that gap.”

The mini-medical school drew 39 students from 20 different high schools and six college pre-medical students.