Who Says Free Health Care Doesn’t Work?

• CU Clinic more than student project.
Daily Record Photo/Rick Curl - 
For the last three years medical students at Campbell University have staffed a health clinic to care for underserved patients. Above, from left, Justyne Murphy, Nicholai Petri and J.T. Muller.
Daily Record Photo/Rick Curl - For the last three years medical students at Campbell University have staffed a health clinic to care for underserved patients. Above, from left, Justyne Murphy, Nicholai Petri and J.T. Muller.
Daily Record Photo/Rick Curl –
For the last three years medical students at Campbell University have staffed a health clinic to care for underserved patients. Above, from left, Justyne Murphy, Nicholai Petri and J.T. Muller.

By RICK CURL
Of The Record Staff

For many in Harnett and surrounding counties who don’t have health care, there is a place for you.

At Campbell University, first- and second-year students enrolled in the Jerry M. Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine have taken their training to a new level while helping those in the community get the medical attention they need.

“This is our third year being open,” said clinic co-director Justyne Murphy. “We see about 300 patients who are returning patients.”

Ms. Murphy and J.T. Muller help oversee the clinic and serve on its board of directors while also keeping up with their classwork as medical students.

“We are the two co-directors for the clinic, it’s student-run,” Ms. Murphy said. “We have a board of directors made up of students.”

Every Tuesday night the clinic opens its doors. “We see the underinsured and the uninsured of Harnett County and surrounding counties,” Mr. Muller said. “We see about 12 a night and we’re a primary care clinic.”

The clinic itself is for the most part a full-service medical center. In addition to seeing patients — under the supervision of an attending physician — the students provide lab services and pharmacy services as well as treatment.

The clinic is staffed not only with medical students. Also on board are students training to be physician assistants and pharmacists.

“A team that goes in to evaluate the patient is about four students,” Ms. Murphy said. “They evaluate the patient, do a medical history and do a physical exam. Then they come out and present (the case to the attending physician), so it’s much like we would be doing in residency or our third year.”

Said Mr. Muller, “This is unlike any other school I’ve heard of. We’re doing this as first-year students. So we’re seeing real patients, taking real histories and doing physical exams. It’s really setting you up for a positive clinical rotation learning these skills so early on.”

The program is so popular among students that they usually only get the chance to be in the clinic once each semester.

“They see it as very positive and it kind of reinforces why we’re here,” Ms. Murphy said. “You get to see real patients and help them with what’s going on in their lives.”

Both co-directors agree that volunteering in the clinic offers a human touch to students who might not otherwise be able to include it in their education.

“In the time of such stress, people really realize why we’re here,” Mr. Muller said. “They come to the clinic, they … see why we come to this school.”

As for the patients, the reception has been overwhelmingly positive. “They’re very appreciative, they are very happy to have us,” Ms. Murphy said. “Honestly they wouldn’t have health care unless we were here. Because we offer everything free it’s a plus for them.”

Said Ms. Murphy, “We have saved Harnett County, just in the emergency room and things like that, almost $300,000 just in the services we provide.”

Mr. Muller says once a patient has been to the clinic for the first time, they’re able to return and be treated as if it were any other doctor’s office. They receive care for specialized needs such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

One of the challenges faced by the clinic is the ability to accept new patients.

With the current limitations of space — the clinic uses the Campbell University Health Center which only has a handful of exam rooms — and only seeing patients one day a week, the challenge comes when trying to schedule patients.

“It’s just getting new patients in while serving our returning patients,” Ms. Murphy said. “And making sure they can be seen in an appropriate time.”

Both of those problems could be minimized if a prospective new location for the clinic comes to fruition. The board will present a business plan to the medical school dean later this month.

“We’re aiming for about 200 more patients, but we want to start off slow,” Mr. Muller said. “We really want to get it going and established. We’ll start off with seeing patients about once a month. Then pick up from there.”

The new site could be part of what the students hope will be a multifaceted health care clinic.

“We really see the final goal as the two locations and then a mobile clinic,” Mr. Muller said. “That would give us about three days and the mobile clinic getting out into the community so people don’t have to come to us.”

He continued, “One of our missions here at Campbell is they want us to get into the community. … Through the clinic we’ve really made a great connection with the community.”

For more information on getting registered and getting an appointment, contact the clinic at (910) 302-6441 Monday through Friday. Calls are usually returned between Friday and Sunday.

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