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Student volunteers run community health clinic

January 18, 2007

Photo of Clinica Martin Baro staffRaza studies students will make their dream of a medical clinic in San Francisco's Mission District a reality when the Clinica Martin Baro opens Jan. 20. Named in memory of the late Jesuit priest and human rights activist, the project is a collaboration with physicians and medical students at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). The weekly clinic provides free basic health maintenance and disease prevention health education to the uninsured and disadvantaged in San Francisco. While the UCSF medical students provide treatment under the supervision of two doctors, the Raza studies students plan and manage the clinic's operations and fundraising efforts, and assist with patient visits and health education.

Located in the CARECEN building at 1245 Alabama St. near 24th Street in San Francisco's Mission District, the clinic is open every Saturday starting at 8 a.m.

It operates solely on volunteer efforts and donations. "This year, the students have managed to raise $10,000 for the clinic through coffee sales and other events," said Felix Kury, a psychotherapist, Raza studies lecturer and SF State faculty adviser for the clinic.

Students in Kury's Latino Health Care Perspectives class serve on committees that manage the clinic. A lab committee performs basic lab analysis, packages and sends blood and other samples to professional labs, and finds labs that are willing to provide analysis in-kind or at cost. Another committee takes charge of the clinic's supplies and solicits in-kind donations of anything from tongue depressors to diagnostic equipment. Some students are trained to help insured members of the Latino community navigate the paperwork and language barriers that impede access to health care.

The Raza students are also taught to register patients, set up medical charts, take vital signs and glucose readings and record medical histories. Everyone involved in the clinic meets Monday evenings to review the last clinic's activities and prepare for the next.

"About 70 percent of the families of the Raza students working on the clinic don't have health insurance," Kury said. "So, this is a very passionate pursuit for these students."

When Carolina Monico, now in her final year of medical school at UCSF, was in Kury's class she dreamed of a clinic that would serve San Franciscans who had trouble finding and affording care. She and fellow medical student Zoel Quinonez -- who grew up in the Mission -- volunteer as co-directors of the clinic. Rene Salazar, MD and assistant clinical professor of medicine at UCSF, oversees the medical care.

Monico, who immigrated to the United States from El Salvador when she was 10, who was an undergraduate double-major in biology and Raza studies , at SF State. She said the road to medical school was tough and required support that was not always available. She hopes the volunteer opportunities at the clinic will encourage careers in medicine and provide the students with the support she missed. "One of the biggest roles I can play is as a mentor," she said. While the most recent U.S. Census indicates that 42.7 million people of Hispanic origin live in the United States, only 3 percent are doctors.

"I like to think that projects like this clinic will bridge the gap between minority students in science who could use the support from other minority students already pursuing careers in the same field," Monico said. Kury said some of his students who never considered medical careers are now taking biology and chemistry courses.

-- Denize Springer


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Last modified January 18, 2007 by University Communications