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University of Iowa News Release

April 19, 2004

Students To Unveil Mobile Clinic Bus, Call Attention To Uninsured

University of Iowa health sciences students now have the one piece of equipment that truly gives their Mobile Clinic its name.

The students recently put the finishing touches on their own Mobile Clinic bus, a 35-foot-long, former transit vehicle that has been redesigned and renovated into a traveling health clinic. The bus will be on display off Newton Road next to the Medical Education and Research Facility (MERF) from noon to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 20. UI students, faculty and staff, along with local and community leaders, have been invited to tour the bus. A brief presentation is scheduled for 12:45 p.m. in the MERF atrium.

The Mobile Clinic open house is one of the many grassroots efforts at the UI, in Johnson County communities and across the country seeking to raise awareness of, and solutions for, the nearly 44 million Americans -- including 8.5 million children -- who lack health coverage. An estimated eight out of 10 uninsured Americans are from working families. National "Cover the Uninsured Week" is May 10-16. To learn more, visit http://covertheuninsuredweek.org.

"At the core of the Mobile Clinic mission is the belief that health care is a basic human right," said Brie Romines, a second-year student in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine. "This belief motivates our desire to partner with communities to provide health care services to people who are often prevented from receiving adequate care due to financial, cultural or social barriers. The Mobile Clinic focuses on health care issues that are common to people without health insurance and where we can make a difference through screening, treatment, education and prevention."

The Mobile Clinic actually has been running since September 2002. The clinic is a student-run, community-centered health care treatment and education project. Its mission is to serve underserved populations in Johnson County and the surrounding area, utilize interdisciplinary potential at the UI, raise awareness of existing health resources in the area, and connect people in communities served by these resources.

Utilizing nearly 200 UI student volunteers from programs in medicine, pharmacy, nursing, social work, dentistry and public health, the Mobile Clinic serves the Broadway Neighborhood Center, Pheasant Ridge Neighborhood Center and Shelter House -- all located in Iowa City -- and Columbus Junction Community Schools. Mobile Clinic services include hypertension and diabetes screenings, risk assessment health counseling, screening for infectious disease, educational materials, and well-child and well-adult physical examinations. UI faculty physicians volunteer their time to oversee the students' efforts during each site visit.

Students will continue to use their own transportation to travel to and from the clinic sites in Iowa City and Columbus Junction. What the Mobile Clinic bus gives students is more flexibility -- and patients more privacy -- in a clinical setting, said Nick Mohr, a second-year student in the Carver College of Medicine who helped design and build the bus.

"Being able to give patients more privacy was a key consideration in the design," Mohr said. "It can be uncomfortable for patients to discuss health concerns in a large room with other people around, as was sometimes the case at the community centers. This bus helps alleviate some of that awkwardness patients may feel, and also makes it easier for us to interact with patients while learning and improving our clinical skills at the same time."

The bus is divided into four main areas: a private consultation room for pharmacy and social work consultations; two examination rooms; and a room for nursing functions, paperwork and storage.

As many as 30 people have worked on either the design or the actual building of the bus, Mohr said, which includes fellow medical and other health sciences students, as well as UI engineering students who learned about the project. The design process began last September, and the actual renovation work began last December. Mohr said a core group of about six to eight students have put in a lot of work the past several months getting the bus ready.

The Mobile Clinic experience helps raise the students' social consciousness as well as their educational experience, said Jerold Woodhead, M.D., UI professor of pediatrics and the Sahai Family Professor of Medical Education. Woodhead is among the 36 UI faculty members who volunteer to work with Mobile Clinic members at their community site visits. He also is one of three faculty advisors to the Mobile Clinic project.

"Working with the Mobile Clinic has opened students' eyes to the reality of underserved patient populations. The students see what health care access challenges exist for people from a variety of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds," Woodhead said. "But this project also gives students an opportunity to work together as part of a health care team. Medical students can learn what their colleagues in nursing, pharmacy, social work and other disciplines bring to the health care system."

The original idea for the Mobile Clinic was generated in fall 2001 by a group of medical students as an extension of their Community Health Outreach course, an elective that is part of the medical school curriculum. The class focuses on connecting medical students with social service programs in the Iowa City area. The students received a $30,000 grant in 2002 from the Pfizer Medical Humanities Initiative, which supports the "Caring for Communities" program of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). That grant, and grants from the UI Associate Provost for Health Sciences Enrichment Fund, the UI Culturally Competent Care Initiative and the Grousbeck Family Foundation, along with other local fundraising events by the students, helped pay for the cost of the bus, its renovation, and other equipment and supplies.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide. Visit UI Health Care online at http://www.uihealthcare.com.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5135 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

MEDIA CONTACT: David Pedersen, 319-335-8032, david-pedersen@uiowa.edu; MOBILE CLINIC CONTACT: Penny Rembolt, 319-353-3092, penny-rembolt@uiowa.edu; COVER THE UNINSURED CONTACT: Ann Rhodes, 319-353-5492, ann-rhodes@uiowa.edu.