|Students glean ideas from CARES clinic
by Wally Pregnall
College of Health Professions
Despite ongoing debate about reform of the American health care system,
the concept of how to reduce health disparities is one that transcends
cultures and political systems. While governments grapple with
policy decisions, a recent visit from a group of Chinese medical school
students demonstrates that solutions often come from the idealism and
dedication of a few.
students Ying Han, center, and Mengyi Zha, second from right, tour the
clinic Feb. 1 with MUSC students. In order to make student-run clinics
feasible in China, the visiting students know they must tap into the
spirit of volunteerism they witnessed from the MUSC students operating
During her pre-medical studies at the University of Nebraska, exchange
student Mengyi Zha, known to her friends as Zed, became interested in
the concept of free, student-run medical clinics as a means of both
learning and extending health benefits to those most in need. She
began corresponding with friends and fellow medical school students at
Peking University Health Science Center (PUHSC) in Beijing, who quickly
became interested and wanted to learn more about how the concept could
potentially be implemented in China.
With the support of PUHSC, Zed organized the fact-finding cultural
exchange trip to the United States. The group visited the MUSC
student-operated CARES clinic Feb. 1 where Chinese and MUSC students
had an opportunity to interact. The Charleston leg of their tour
was hosted by Wanda Gonsalves, M.D., of the College of Health
Professions, who has been instrumental in developing student
involvement in the CARES clinic. Gonsalves also is in the Department of
Family Medicine and medical director of the Physician Assistant Program.
Prior to their Charleston visit, the Chinese delegation, which includes
students from disciplines such as dentistry, biology, clinical
sciences, and basic medical sciences, attended the 2010 Society
for Student Run Free Clinics Annual Conference in Jacksonville, Fla.
Their U.S. visit will also take them to clinics and medical schools in
cities throughout the U.S., including Omaha, Neb., Chicago, Ill., and
Pittsburg, Pa. In May, they will present a practical plan to school
administration at PUHSC for potential implementation of a student-run
clinic in Beijing.
In order to make student-run free clinics feasible in China, the
visiting students know they must tap into the spirit of volunteerism
they witnessed from the MUSC students operating the CARES clinic.
Although policy and financial issues remain to be resolved, Zed
believes if they start small, the concept will be successful and spread
throughout other medical schools in China. Much like their MUSC
counterparts, the Chinese students intend to lend their knowledge and
idealism to provide very practical solutions to the universal problem
of health disparities.
Friday, Feb. 12, 2010