Jessica Kruger: Learning Through Discovery at the Lighthouse Clinic

Head-shot of UB professor, Jessica Kruger.

Jessica Kruger, ELN Faculty Fellow and Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Community Health and Health Behavior, is a believer in providing the space for students to explore and apply what they have learned in the classroom to real world situations. This is evident in how she advises the Lighthouse Clinic, a student-run, free medical clinic on the East Side of Buffalo. Having started her own student-run, free medical clinic during her undergraduate career, she knows how valuable this resource is to the community, and also how valuable it is as an opportunity for students to learn how to run the show and think on their feet. In Jessica’s words, “You don’t learn from someone telling you what to do.”

When she arrived at UB a year ago, she wanted to find a way to get public health students involved with UB’s student-run, free medical clinic. She now takes a group of at least four undergraduate public health students to volunteer at the clinic every Wednesday night. They screen patients as they come in for any social or behavioral health issues that they can provide referrals for, and then they present to the medical students about what they’ve done for the patient. Jessica calls this “learning through discovery” since they never know who’s going to walk into the clinic that night with what issues.

Though it’s run by a combination of medical students, master’s level social work students, and undergraduate public health students, it’s actually a very collaborative environment in which students fill in the gaps in each other’s education. The public health students teach the medical students about insurance and food insecurity, and then the tables turn and they learn from the social work students the best ways to talk to people dealing with issues like depression and homelessness. “It’s actually very energizing to see,” says Jessica, “and we do some amazing things in a short amount of time by working together.”

And though it’s a lot of work, Jessica remains committed to the program because it allows students to learn things that you just can’t teach. “I can teach about health disparities, I can teach about the medical system, but until you see it and realize some of the problems firsthand, it doesn’t actually click. These students are learning firsthand about the challenges the people in these communities face. And I do think you need to include some of that adventure, some of that excitement, and some of that experience in order to fully grasp what you want and where you want to go.”

The Experiential Learning Network is not only a resource that connects students to opportunities, like the Lighthouse Clinic, but is also a resource for faculty who want to provide these kinds of opportunities to students. Come visit us in 17 Norton or contact to discuss ideas.


Written by Amanda Hellwig, ‘19