Community Engagement

Addressing a community need

Free gyn clinic run by OUWB students finds its footing

An image of Tiffany Loh talking to other students

Sarah Provencher (left) and Tiffany Loh (center) lead an orientation session at the Student Run Free Clinic Gyn Clinic Night. (Photo by Andrew Dietderich)

icon of a calendarDecember 21, 2021

icon of a pencilBy Andrew Dietderich

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A Pontiac-based gynecological clinic run by students from OUWB launched in early 2021 and already has established itself as a go-to option for some community members.

The Student Run Free Clinic (SRFC) Gyn Clinic Night is a new offering by the same organization that has been delivering the SRFC Family Medicine Clinic Night for the last five years.

Both are also offered once a month at the Gary Burnstein Community Health Clinic in Pontiac.

Co-directors are Sarah Provencher and Tiffany Loh, both second-year medical students at OUWB.

“One, we wanted to address a need in the community and felt that a lot of our patients would benefit from having a separate gynecological clinic in addition to our family medicine clinic,” says Provencher. “The other thing we wanted to do was increase learning opportunities and clinical experiences for medical students.”

Since opening in April, both goals have continuously been met with both patients and students taking advantage of the new offering.

“A gyn clinic works well in our system because there are definitely a lot of patients at the Burnstein Clinic in need of gyn services,” says Loh. “We’ve seen a lot of interest.”

Actively leading in the community

SRFC Gyn Clinic Night is held the third Tuesday of every month. Appointments are required for patients.

Through the clinic, patients have access to a wide range of gynecological services, including annual exams, pap smears, pregnancy tests, urinalysis, bloodwork, punch biopsies, and contraceptives.

“We also have an ultrasound so patients can come in for pregnancy confirmation, and we’ve had a number of patients do that,” says Provencher. “We actually showed a patient her baby for the first time on ultrasound, and it was super exciting for the patient and for the exam team members involved.”

Like the SRFC Family Medicine Clinic, the SRFC Gyn Clinic relies on volunteer physicians to serve as advisors to participating students. Patricia Franz, M.D., assistant professor, and Kurt Wharton, M.D., professor — both from OUWB’s Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology —currently serve as the clinic’s attendings. Residents from Beaumont also volunteer.  

Wharton says experiences like the SRFC Gyn Clinic go a long way in helping students understand the importance of committing to community service.

“As physicians, they will take an active lead in the health of the community and much of what they will do later in their careers isn’t just direct patient care,” says Wharton. “They will need these kinds of experiences to provide educated answers.”

Any OUWB student can volunteer at the clinic.

OUWB student Sarah Provencher hands out flyers to other students

Sarah Provencher hands out informational pamphlets during a recent orientation for the Student Run Free Clinic Gyn Clinic Night. (Photo by Andrew Dietderich)

Making the most of the opportunity

Every time the clinic is held, up to eight patients are seen.

Justin Brox, M.D., CEO and executive director, Gary Burnstein Community Health Clinic, says there’s good reason that available appointments fill fast.

“This is the kind of thing a lot of people put off and don’t get done,” he says. “Having more availability in the evening is something that has really facilitated the community being able to access the care they need.”

Brox says patients have “been really receptive” to having the SRFC Gyn Clinic available to them. He says it helps having OUWB students involved because they are “really thorough.”

“Patients feel like they can bring up all the different questions they may have,” he says. “Whereas in a normal practice you don’t necessarily have the time to talk about all these different issues and the patients feel that pressure (so they don’t) bring up all the questions they might have.”

Students also say they get a lot of the experience.

Amelia Najor, M3, worked at the clinic in October. She says she was looking for more clinical experience and wanted to help an underserved community.

“Many people are afraid to go to the doctor and for some, going to the hospital can be really scary right now,” she says. “But some people don’t get the luxury of being able to (delay addressing) their health issues…it’s nice for them to be able to come here so we can help them out with what they need.”

Dahlia Rahmon, M3, also volunteered in October. She says she’s really interested in women’s health, and passionate “about bridging any gaps in care and trying to increase access for patients.”

“I wanted to serve the community and learn more about the challenges they face,” she says.

Jonathan Raskin, M2, also recently volunteered. He volunteered in 2020 at the Family Medicine Clinic, calls it a “great experience,” and says that he wanted more.

“You get to see patients, talk with M3s and M4s, and talk with physicians…it’s just a great learning experience,” he says. “Plus, I want to learn about as many fields in medicine as possible.”

Loh says it’s that kind of feedback that indicates the SRFC Gyn Clinic Night is worth the effort.

“Students come up to us afterwards and tells us they had such a great experience,” she says. “Having the opportunity to see how much the other students gain from being here really makes me happy and tells me it’s worth it.”

Provencher says patient feedback is another big indicator.

“What makes it worth it for me is seeing how appreciative patients are at the end of the visit,” she says. “Especially when they come in and are very nervous at first about a health issue… then at the end, feel like it was thoroughly addressed, they were well-cared for, and made to feel like they are very important.”

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