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MU medical students operate MedZou free clinic

Thursday, December 11, 2008 | 9:14 p.m. CST
Lane Wilson and Irene Mannering double check a patient's file Dec. 11. MedZou offers a free clinic for uninsured patients and was founded by students and professors from MU's School of Medicine.

COLUMBIA – Six people were patiently waiting Thursday at the small reception area in MedZou, a free clinic started by MU medical students. For most of them, this was a follow-up appointment.

The clinic, which opened Oct. 16, serves uninsured patients who are usually referred by the Family Health Center. It will hold a community open house at 10 a.m. Monday at its location in the Central Missouri Community Action agency's building at 400 Wilkes Blvd.

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"It has been a positive experience to see the patients go through several follow-up appointments and get proper medication," said Kayla Schleicher, a second-year medical student and one of the four student directors of MedZou.

Since opening, the clinic has seen 40 patients. The patients usually come with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and hypertension, Schleicher said. The clinic is open from 5 t0 9 p.m. on Thursdays and sees eight patients a week on average.

The clinic has helped identify new diabetes patients, such as a 19-year-old girl whose blood sugar level turned out to be four or five times higher than it normally is, said Dan Miller, a second-year medical student and a student director of the clinic. "The condition was never diagnosed before," he said. "I hear unbelievable stories here and the difficult social situations (a person can go through)."

The clinic has a conference room that has been divided into smaller private areas with tables and chairs. First- and second-year medical students interview patients here to learn about their medical history. The clinic has two examination rooms — the Black and Gold rooms — where third- and fourth-year students check patients for physical conditions and medication use.

Two physicians, who stay during clinic hours every week, write prescriptions, order lab tests or take additional notes on patient conditions.

After these checks, a patient is led to a social worker who might help a patient apply for Medicaid or enroll in support groups such as those that help with possible alcohol and substance use.

Debra Howenstine, from the MU Department of Family and Community Medicine, was the attending physician for Thursday evening. She is one of the three faculty advisers of the clinic.

She said she is excited by the attendance at the clinic and the medical students' participation.

"Patients that have come in really needed care and haven't found other ways to plug into the health-care system," Howenstine said. "Our goal is to help facilitate patients receiving care at the Family Health Center whenever that's possible."

The clinic currently does not have the facilities needed to conduct blood tests. The patients have to go to a private laboratory, Boyce and Bynum Lab, where they can test blood for free.

But in January, Schleicher hopes that MedZou will have enough trained people who can draw blood at the center, saving patients the extra trip to the lab. The blood will then be sent to the private lab where it will be processed and analyzed.

"The students enjoy their interaction with patients and have learned a lot from early clinical experiences," Schleicher said. "The student-patient relationship also greatly benefits the patient because each patient spends about one hour with the medical team at each appointment, ensuring that they are receiving quality care."


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