December 11, 2022
‘You get so much out of it in return’: UK physicians speak of fulfilling experience volunteering at Salvation Army Clinic
The University of Kentucky College of Medicine’s Salvation Army Clinic is a student-run, free clinic that serves as a learning environment for medical, pharmacy, and social work students while providing acute onsite health care for uninsured patients at the Salvation Army of Central Kentucky.
While medical students gain early experience volunteering at the clinic, physicians and attendings are crucial in activities such as providing clinical guidance, writing prescriptions, and ensuring high-quality care for patients.
In the midst of the holiday season, volunteering at the clinic is a great way for UK physicians to give back to the community.
Meagan Schaeffner, MD, heard about the Salvation Army Clinic when she was an internal medicine resident at UK, and she started volunteering last fall as a faculty member after a student officer informed her of the need for physicians. Ever since, she has volunteered at least once per month and estimates she logged 50 hours this year.
“I have really enjoyed it,” Dr. Schaeffner said. “It’s wonderful to work with the students to see them grow and progress, but it’s also really nice because I work with an underserved population in my regular job as an HIV primary caregiver.”
She added that as a volunteer, “you get so much out of it in return.”
Ketan Buch, MD, agreed, noting that volunteering is a well-rounded and rewarding experience. He became involved when he joined the UK faculty in 2000 and volunteers at least once per month. Along with serving the community, he gains experience treating primary care diseases that he doesn’t see as a doctor in the intensive care unit. He also is able to train medical students, which he doesn’t get to do as often now that he works in the VA Hospital.
“First- and second-years are starting out in medicine, and many times this is their first interaction with real patients,” Dr. Buch said. “You get to see them grow from being afraid to talk to patients to making a diagnosis.”
Physicians who help at the Salvation Army Clinic provide support for medical students as they check vitals, conduct patient interviews, and complete physical exams. Then medical students present to the resident or attending onsite. Meanwhile, the clinic provides free or low-cost access to common medications such as blood pressure medicine, antibiotics, and allergy medicine.
Dr. Schaeffner said the clinic is particularly helpful for patients with acute, viral, and respiratory illnesses like colds, the flu, and minor bacterial infections. It is also beneficial for people who are working to establish a relationship with a new primary care doctor.
Terrence Barrett, MD, a gastroenterologist and chief of the UK HealthCare Division of Digestive Diseases and Nutrition, has volunteered at the clinic for over nine years. He spoke highly of the “unsung heroes” he sees when going to volunteer who inspire him: the psychiatry social workers who help patients navigate insurance and care, firemen who respond to emergency calls without complaint, and the students who provide enthusiasm through even the toughest days.
“It really is a humbling way of providing health care,” Dr. Barrett said.
The Salvation Army Clinic began in 1986 as a partnership between the UK College of Medicine and the Salvation Army of Central Kentucky. It started in a small corner of a dining area. Today, the clinic includes three exam rooms, pharmacy, and area for weekly group smoking cessation classes.
How you can volunteer
The clinic is seeking physician volunteers and would love to have more UK physicians involved. Physicians can sign up to volunteer at University of Kentucky – Salvation Army Clinic (uksac.org) or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the Salvation Army Clinic, visit http://www.uksac.org/