WSSU’s clinic on wheels reaches those out of reach
Since its inception over three years ago, Winston-Salem State University’s Rams Know HOW (Healthcare On Wheels) Mobile Clinic has served thousands across the community and beyond, providing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of medical care that leaders of the program, which is supported by a partnership between the university and Novant Health, say may not have been delivered at all, if not for the clinic.
“Through this partnership, we have seen so many people who had no health insurance and who are underinsured,” stated Dr. Peggy Valentine, dean of the School of Health Sciences at WSSU. “This mobile clinic has really bridged the gap for so many people in the East Winston community. It’s really kept people out of the emergency room and kept them healthy.”
Rams Know HOW is poised to expand its impact even further. Novant officials recently signed on to support the project for the next four years, extending its reach through fall 2018.
“It fits right in with (Novant’s) strategic framework, and it helps the university further its mission for community engagement, so it’s a win-win all the way around,” Valentine said of the partnership. “… We’re so grateful to have had this opportunity, and we look forward to taking it to the next level in the next four years.”
Over the course of its first three years, the clinic, which is staffed by students and faculty members, has served over 4,000 patients, providing services ranging from blood pressure checks to cholesterol and diabetes screenings and educating the community about health risks such as obesity and how to address or minimize them. The clinic draws students from across the School of Health Science’s five disciplines, offering an unprecedented opportunity for interdisciplinary learning, said nursing professor Dr. Joanette Pete McClain.
“Diabetes doesn’t affect an individual in isolation, so we don’t teach in isolation,” remarked McClain, citing one of the many chronic diseases that Know HOW workers battle through preventative care. “We need each other as disciplines to be able to learn from and teach. We’re all learning from each other.”
McClain, who has been with the clinic since the beginning, says the project has exceeded her expectations at every turn, providing valuable opportunities for students to learn and grow through service.
“So many times, students think they’re in a program – they’re here – to learn,” she observed. “…But they’re also here to be taught how to give back to the community. Sometimes you don’t do something because you are getting paid to do it. You do it because it’s simply the right thing to do.”
The clinic has become a staple at community events ranging from health fairs to street festivals, organizers say, and regularly serves clients who seek it out at annual events year after year. Dr. George Harwell, chair of the Clinical Laboratory Sciences Department, says the real-life experiences the clinic affords students are indispensable.
“It’s a real patient sitting there, and they can get results, they can interrelate, they can use the skills that they’ve been taught,” he stated. “It is where the rubber meets the road in most cases.”
Harwell says the clinic has been well received.
“The feedback from the community is that they like this. They see the students actually doing something that’s helpful to the community,” he remarked, adding that the clinic exemplifies the school’s motto, “Enter to learn, depart to serve.” “…It clearly fits what we’re preaching out there and that, I think, benefits everybody.”
Kimberly Harris, a senior, nursing major, said her involvement as a Know HOW volunteer has greatly enhanced her educational experience, by encouraging her to think on her feet and to relate to her patients in new ways.
“It’s great just to be in a conversation with a patient and to be able to talk to them, as a health professional and as a student,” she said.
Harris, who is pursuing nursing as a second career, said she chose the profession because of her desire to help others. Thanks to the clinic, Harris, who is set to graduate in May, says she has more “know how” than ever, an added benefit for her future patients.
“What you get out of serving others is greater than any paycheck that you can get, because you are impacting people,” she declared. “There’s so much gratitude towards us for doing it, and that within itself is phenomenal.”
City resident Marvin King says visiting the clinic at a health fair last year proved to be a life changing experience for him. King, a bus driver for the High Point Transit System, says McClain spoke to him about the dangers of being overweight and advised him on some lifestyle changes that he could make to drop the extra pounds he was carrying and achieve better health. Although he knew his weight was an issue, the information he received at the clinic and the contentious manner in which it was delivered were what finally inspired him to adopt a healthier lifestyle, King said.
“They don’t go into detail like Dr. McClain did,” he said of the traditional care providers he has encountered. “They don’t really sit down and talk to you.”
The 48-year-old has since dropped 60 pounds, and has been able to stop taking medication for hypertension and high cholesterol as a result. The grandfather of three says he is grateful for the support of Rams Know HOW, a service he highly recommends.
“I think it’s real good for the community, and more people need to take advantage of it,” he declared. “…It made the difference for me.”
For more information about Rams Know HOW or to request the clinic’s appearance at an upcoming event, call 336-750-3486.