Published March 25, 2016
For 15 years, residents without insurance on Buffalo’s East Side have accessed free health care at the Lighthouse Free Medical Clinic, founded and managed by students from the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
The nonprofit, drop-in clinic provides routine medical and preventive care every Wednesday evening to residents of the East Side, designated a “medically underserved community” by the federal government.
Under the supervision of faculty physicians, medical school students volunteer at the clinic, providing routine care, including physicals, diabetes and hypertension screenings, treatment for routine illnesses, counseling and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, and help with enrolling in medical insurance.
The students have long wanted to do more. Now, they’ll be able to, thanks to a robust fundraising effort focused on clinic alumni and the wider UB community. The students’ annual auction and raffle, being held from 7-11 p.m. tonight at the Pearl Street Grill & Brewery, 76 Pearl St., is sold-out. It has attracted 180 attendees, more than double the number who took part in last years fundraiser.
The additional funds will allow the students to upgrade computer equipment and purchase a new electronic medical records (EMR) system.
“A new EMR system will help us transition our patients into primary care facilities in the neighborhood to ensure continuity of care,” explains medical student Claire Maggiotto, a clinic manager, head of fundraising and a member of the class of 2018.
To provide a broader array of services at the clinic, the medical students have recruited colleagues from UB’s other health sciences schools. Students from the School of Dental Medicine, the School of Social Work and the School of Public Health and Health Professions now volunteer at the clinic. Several undergraduates from UB and Canisius College provide clerical support and a few young professionals who are applying to medical school also volunteer there.
“The clinic provides invaluable training and education for medical students, undergraduates, dental students, nutritionists, social workers and other students from the UB health sciences community to aid the less fortunate in Buffalo,” says Matthias Williams, a clinic manager and member of the medical school’s class of 2018.
That kind of training helps introduce students to primary care, some of whom may be inspired to go into the field upon graduation.
“Every time I am there, I feel inspired to bring my best self and do everything I can for the patients who are there,” Maggiotto says. “Whether it’s making a patient laugh while I’m drawing blood, explaining how to navigate the health care system to a recent immigrant or giving a sticker to the daughter of a patient who has been waiting five hours to have a physical so she can start work the next day, I am driven by a desire to help our patients in any way that I can.
“My time at Lighthouse has shown me how much the deck can be stacked against people,” Maggiotto notes. “I think Lighthouse is a place where we can help put a couple of cards in our patients’ favor.”