August 8, 2012

Robert R. Frank Student-Run Free Clinic now a nonprofit

Three years after opening its doors to Detroit's uninsured, Michigan's first student-run free clinic is now a government-recognized, 501 (c) 3 nonprofit. The Robert R.

Three years after opening its doors to Detroit's uninsured, Michigan's first student-run free clinic is now a government-recognized, 501 (c) 3 nonprofit.

The Robert R. Frank Student-Run Free Clinic was founded in 2009 by the Wayne State University School of Medicine's Class of 2012 with support from faculty, and offers primary and preventive care, health education and awareness, patient advocacy, social work and counseling, prescribed medications, basic on-site lab testing and specialty care referrals. The clinic operates in collaboration with Mercy Primary Community Care Center of Detroit, at 5555 Conner Street in Detroit, providing WSU's medical students with experience in culturally competent medicine in an atmosphere of mutual respect and dignity.

The nearly 18-month process to become a nonprofit began in January 2011. "It has been gratifying to see the SRFC grow from an idea into a reality," said founding faculty member Juliann Binienda, Ph.D., assistant professor of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences.

The nonprofit status opens the door for several fundraising options, said WSU medical student Katie King, assistant director of fundraising. The new status also strengthens the clinic's ability to offer lower cost prescriptions and helps attract much-needed donations, especially from individual donors. Just $15 will buy a patient prescription, and $80 will cover a patient visit. To view a "wish list" of donation ideas or to donate, visit: http://www.razoo.com/story/Robert-R-Frank-Student-Run-Free-Clinic?referral_code=share.

The clinic is now also included on the list of charities faculty members may choose in their annual giving options - a designation earned shortly before the nonprofit status came through.

All donations will be deductible from personal income tax, something the organization has always wanted to offer, King said.

The clinic can now apply grants from private foundations and the government.

"I feel very relieved! But at the same time, more work is coming," Dr. Binienda said. "My goal is to educate the students about the importance of keeping careful financial records, having treasurer's reports and knowing proper tax filing procedures as a nonprofit organization. I also want them to learn about strategic planning in terms of how, where and when to seek external funding. I am impressed at the professionalism of the students and their understanding of the implications of achieving this status."

When seeing patients, the students are grouped in teams of four directly supervised by a licensed physician.

"It's nice to know we make all the decisions, and it really is completely student-run," said King, a Detroit resident.

All diagnoses and prescriptions are confirmed by the practicing physician. King estimates the clinic sees about 20 patients every three hours. "You can see there is a huge need for it. There is always a ton of patients that want to be seen," she said.

King, a second-year medical student, started volunteering to meet her co-curricular program requirement last fall, and was quickly impressed with the work being done. "For us, as first-years coming in, if you don't volunteer at the clinic you don't get as much hands-on experience. It is really helpful when you work with (fellow students)," she said.

For Dr. Binienda, the level of compassion, organization and enthusiasm the students demonstrate in their work with the clinic is more impressive than achieving the 501c3 status. "They take their patient care seriously and patients have responded favorably because of it. The SRFC is well-organized and plans are developed and implemented. For me, this is a win-win for both education and patient care."

The Student-Run Free Clinic is on Twitter and Facebook. The free clinic is open from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday. Call 313-444-5490 to make an appointment.