There are at least fifteen community health clinics in Sedgwick County that serve people in need. They are known as “safety net clinics.”
One of them, the Guadalupe Clinic, will mark its 30th anniversary next year. For the past decade, Guadalupe has been working with students from the KU School of Medicine-Wichita to increase the level of care offered… and provide these future doctors with very practical experience.
As KMUW’s Deborah Shaar reports, the Jay-Doc program will also reach a big milestone and expand services in the new year.
KU medical students are examining patients at the Guadalupe Clinic in south Wichita. It’s Saturday, the day these doctors-in-training are in charge and run most aspects of the clinic.
There’s a student director who is keeping track of the incoming patients and making doctor assignments. Three teams of student doctors are providing patient care. And an attending physician is there to supervise.
All are volunteers and all are there to serve in what’s known as the Jay-Doc Community Clinic.
Fourth year medical student Caitlin Chiles says they’ve created a system to give students at all levels valuable hands-on training.
“The pre-med students and first- and second-year medical students go into the room, they get the vitals and they talk to the patient about why they are here today," she says. "They come back here and hand off the patient to a medical student. And then the medical student goes in and completes the history, the physical exam and then they come back and formulate an assessment and plan with the doctor who’s here today.”
On this morning there are four patients in exam rooms, and several more in the lobby waiting to be seen. The JayDoc Clinic treats patients who are can’t afford health insurance and those who don’t qualify for government medical programs.
A five-dollar per visit donation is requested, but the clinic won’t turn away anyone who cannot pay. One patient is worried that her sore throat, fever and headache might be the start of something serious.
Third year student Adam Condra goes over his case with this day’s supervisor, Dr. Amanda Baxa who is a family medicine resident and a former JayDoc volunteer.
“She had a fever at home," Codra says.
"Do you know how high," Baxa asks.
"She said 101 point something but she took ibuprofen this morning and now it’s down to normal at 98," he says.
"Ok let’s go see her,” she says.
The two enter the exam room where Baxa confirms the student doctor’s assessment of the middle-aged woman.
“And you’ve been taking Ibuprofen," Baxa asks.
"Ibuprofen for temperature and Theraflu for my sore throat and congestion,” the patient adds.
After a few more questions and tests, Doctor Baxa tells the patient that it’s likely a virus causing her symptoms and then offers treatment options.
JayDoc Faculty Advisor Scott Moser says seeing students learning while meeting community needs is the heart of the Jay-Doc clinical experience.
“Medical students live busy lives apart with what they do with JayDoc," he says. "I’m impressed with this level of commitment and time and service they give to any of these things above and beyond of just keeping up in medical school.”
The partnership between the KU School of Medicine and Guadalupe Clinic will mark its ten year anniversary in January. Moser says it all began when a group of students approached him in 2005 with the idea of starting a student-run clinic in Wichita, much like the one operating in Kansas City.
“We’ve had a variety of safety net clinics in town taking care of indigent people," he says. "But this was the first time to really find a partnership between a safety net clinic and the medical school to give our students an opportunity for service learning at a level that they hadn’t been involved in before.”
Beyond patient care and honing their bedside manners, these students are also learning they must balance their best clinical judgment with the circumstances of the patient. That often means finding the cheapest medications and questioning whether expensive tests are really necessary...because they know these patients don’t have insurance. It’s that kind of lesson that third year student Claire Thomas says she won’t soon forget.
“I guess the patients that we see here sometimes are in some of the most dire need of any of the patients we see," she says. "And I always feel like we make a really big difference even after one visit. Being able to assess them and provide them with affordable resources for one or two medications we’ve changed their life.”
The Jay-Docs are expanding their care into a new outreach clinic near the Lord’s Diner, which serves nightly meals to the hungry on north Broadway. Partnering again with Guadalupe Clinic, the student doctors staff the office on Thursday nights. Right now they see patients twice a month as a trial run, but come January, they’ll be offering services every Thursday.
Guadalupe Director David Gear says with the large homeless population, this new clinic is needed.
“As both organizations wanted to better serve the poorest of the poor, we went right into the heart of that area of downtown Wichita, right by Lord’s Diner," he says. "We are open in the evenings when the clientele are there having dinner. We then can offer care right there... within the walking distance right next door to the Lord’s Diner.”
The Jay-Doc students also help with monthly specialty-care nights such as the diabetes and women’s health initiatives.
As graduation nears for Caitlin Chiles, she says she gets a lot of satisfaction and pride from her work at the clinics.
“I know that otherwise these patients may end up in the emergency department using them as primary care," Chiles says. "So it’s not just a feeling that I’m doing something good... it’s also a feeling that we’re helping out the community as a whole because our emergency rooms don’t need to be bogged down with these primary care patients. “
Chiles began volunteering at Jay-Doc as an undergrad and has served in virtually every role at the clinic. She’s now the senior executive director and there’s a good chance that she’ll continue to volunteer as she moves on to a family medicine residency and later... her own practice.
Faculty advisor Scott Moser says it happens all the time with the Jay-Docs and he couldn’t be happier.
“We have a number of folks that have graduated and are in practice or upper level residents and they continue to come and be a part of it," Moser says. "That’s a really neat thing from where I sit... historically to watch… watch them grow up and still be service minded.”