School of Medicine

Wayne State University School of Medicine

School of Medicine students to establish new free clinic

Dorothy Gotlib

Dorothy Gotlib

Executive Vice Dean Robert Frank, M.D.

Executive Vice Dean Robert Frank, M.D.

Students of the Wayne State University School of Medicine are laying the groundwork to open a new free community clinic to serve the people of Detroit.

The clinic, second-year medical student Dorothy Gotlib said, is tentatively expected to open in August.

“We have a lot of work to get done before then, but we feel confident we can open then,” said Gotlib, 26, of Ann Arbor, who is spearheading the clinic with co-executive director Robert McWhirter, also a second-year student with the School of Medicine.

Sixty School of Medicine students are involved in opening and volunteering to staff the clinic, Gotlib said. The students are seeking faculty members to assist in staffing the clinic and to volunteer their services so that patients can be referred to them by clinic staff for follow-up treatment.

The students plan to enter into an agreement with the Mercy Primary Care Center free clinic located at 5555 Connor Ave. The student-run clinic will be open one evening a month, after the normal operating hours of the Mercy staff.

“We entered into the partnership because we believed there was no point in starting from scratch and securing or remodeling our own building,” Gotlib explained.

Margaret Meyers, M.D., medical director of the Mercy Primary Care Center Clinic, said an agreement for the student clinic is being negotiated.

“Anything we can do to expand services we fully support,” said Dr. Meyers, a 1990 graduate of the School of Medicine. “For students this is good because they can see the importance of such services and hopefully carry that forward in their careers.”

Dr. Meyers said that the combined efforts of all the free clinics, federally qualified health care centers and health department services within the city can meet the needs of only 50,000 uninsured patients in Detroit. That capacity, she said, falls far short of the estimated 250,000 uninsured residents in the city. The student-run clinic, Meyers said, will help by seeing and treating more patients.

“For every one person we serve, we have four who go unseen and untreated,” said Dr. Meyers, whose clinic provides primary care and prescriptions, along with some specialty treatments via referrals through affiliations with health care organizations such as St. Joseph’s, Henry Ford and WSU/Detroit Medical Center.

At this point, the clinic will be open one evening a month, but the students plan to expand the number of days per month as the project progresses. A long-term goal is to have clinic work part of the school curriculum, although Gotlib admitted that is a ways off.

Gotlib said the students have chosen to name the effort the Wayne State University School of Medicine Robert Frank, M.D., Clinic, after the school’s executive vice dean.

“He’s been greatly involved in community project such as this in the past and we wanted some way to honor him,” she said.

“When I came to WSU School of Medicine as a student in 1968, I assumed responsibility for a student-run free clinic in the Jeffries Housing Project,” Dr. Frank said. “I learned a lot about Detroit and its people from that experience. The creation of the new student clinic by WSU students is a continuation of efforts made by altruistic students who see an unmet need in medicine and want to do something about it. I'm honored to see my name associated with such an endeavor.”

Jessica Slim, another second-year medical student, has already secured a $500 grant from the Association of American Medical Colleges Organization of Student Representatives to help promote the new clinic. The grant will be used to purchase food for a dinner at a homeless shelter to spread the word about the new hours and services.

In addition to seeking physicians to assist them, the students are accepting donations of cash and supplies. “Everyone has their talents that we can use,” Gotlib said.

For more information, contact Gotlib at dgotlib@med.wayne.edu.

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