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A student-run free clinic grows and thrives

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2009 - Spring


The idea was simple—free primary health care for the uninsured. Five years ago students in medicine, nursing and public health and in the Physician Associate Program opened the HAVEN Free Clinic in partnership with the Fair Haven Community Health Center (FHCHC). [See “Students Reach Out to the Uninsured at Free Medical Clinic in Fair Haven,” Yale Medicine, Autumn 2006.] Supervised by faculty from the schools of medicine and nursing, the students saw three or four patients a week. Now HAVEN serves more than 20 patients a week during its Saturday morning hours. Unlike the FHCHC, which has a sliding scale, HAVEN does not charge for its services or for medications.

Since its beginnings five years ago, the student-run clinic has added services to meet the needs of its growing patient population, said Susan Mathai, a fourth-year medical student and one of HAVEN’s directors. In response to student observations of unmet mental health needs among female patients, a support and educational group for women has been started. A new program for latent tuberculosis patients is improving medication adherence. HAVEN’s expanded capacity and services have been made possible by a variety of gifts and grants from members and friends of the medical school community and such philanthropic organizations as the New Haven Community Fund and the Gilead Foundation.

Along with more services have come more opportunities for students to learn about the challenges of caring for low-income patients. HAVEN has drawn on the FHCHC professional staff, volunteers from the medical school community and full-time faculty members to serve as attending physicians. According to Frederick Haeseler, M.D., associate clinical professor of medicine and HAVEN’s medical student advisor, faculty volunteers value the opportunity to teach committed students and help care for patients in need.

“A lot of good things are possible,” said Mathai.

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