Sycamores play important roles in a free, student-run clinic that serves Terre Haute and the surrounding area.
When you think of a health care clinic, you probably imagine doctors hurrying from room to room to examine and counsel patients. You wouldn’t be wrong, but these medical practitioners are actually only half the picture. There are a host of other people who are essential to a clinic — and at the new Mollie R. Wheat Memorial Clinic in Terre Haute, they are the students of Indiana State University.
Offering completely free services since opening in August, the Mollie R. Wheat Clinic in the Landsbaum Center for Health Education serves the non- and under-insured in the local community. What makes this clinic unique is that it is student-run. In addition to medical students from the Indiana University School of Medicine and a volunteer physician, the clinic is staffed by Indiana State dietetic and health sciences students.
“This clinic offers [dietetic and] health sciences students — those concentrating in health administration, public health, or health psychology — an opportunity to interact with both medical professionals and community members,” said Kathryn Berlin, a professor in the department of applied health sciences. “Our students can work with patients on health promotion and disease prevention, as well as learn the administrative side of patient care.”
Indiana State students have worked with dozens of patients since the clinic opened. More than 60 people have been helped, according to Haleigh Laughlin, a clinic staff member and a senior health administration student from Crawfordsville. About five patients are seen each week during the clinic’s hours from eight to noon on Saturday, allowing ample time for each person to be helped with acute primary care, health screenings and patient education.
And, much to the satisfaction of the students, patients have expressed their appreciation for the clinic’s services.
“They are always congratulating you,” said Shelby Hopwood, a senior health administration student from Lebanon, Ind. “They say, ‘You guys are all so kind and help me out with what I need. I’m glad that you guys are here.’ It’s really rewarding.”
Laughlin believes that the clinic also improves a sense of goodwill in Terre Haute and the surrounding areas.
Â ”It impacts how people feel about the community. A lot of people in this area are low-income. I think us being there shows that we’re willing to step up for this community and help people out,” Laughlin said.
To make a patient’s visit successful and satisfactory, Indiana State students put their classroom knowledge into practice as they fulfill several important roles at the clinic.
When a patient enters the clinic, they are first welcomed by health administration students. They are in charge of operational duties that are necessary for a clinic to function and serve patients. Stationed at the front desk, they ensure patients check-in and complete necessary paperwork and forms, keep track of the number of patients seen and have various patient charts signed by appropriate people. They direct patients to medical students, who can administer basic health examinations.
At a medical student’s recommendation, patients may then have a visit with public health, health psychology or dietetics students. Public health and health psychology students can discuss a patient’s specific concerns or questions about diseases and conditions and supply patients with community resources. If a patient needs help with dietary or nutritional information, dietetics students are also present to offer counsel and resources.
Not only do patients receive the care that they need, students gain invaluable professional experience that they will take with them after graduation.
“It gives us experience outside of the classroom,” Laughlin said. “We have to learn how to work with medical students. We have to learn how to work with the community. We have to learn how to work with patients. When we’re ready to graduate, we’ll have that practical experience and knowledge that I don’t think other students will.”
Laughlin and Hopwood hope that the clinic, like the memory of the vibrant Mollie R. Wheat who lost an 11-year battle with cancer and inspired her son, John Wheat, a graduate of the Indiana University School of Medicine in Terre Haute, to create the clinic in her name, will endure for years to come.
“We might be gone, but I think this clinic is here to stay,” Laughlin said.