Student-run clinic fills crucial need for care coordination and a listening ear

Dec. 19, 2017

By Erin Hoover Barnett

In just three short months, the free, student-run Bridges Collaborative Care Clinic has begun filling crucial needs in the lives of men living at Transition Project's Clark Center in Southeast Portland.

Set up as a pop-up clinic every other Saturday morning in the lobby at 1431 S.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Bridges is a standalone clinic staffed by health professions students from OHSU, Oregon State University and Portland State University in collaboration with Transition Projects, faculty advisors and community experts. The students conduct basic health screenings as well as checkups and health education. But perhaps more importantly, they have become translators of medical information and connectors to primary care for the men served by this transitional housing and social services provider.

"Bridges focuses on transitional care," said Zoe Teton, clinic co-chair and third-year medical student at OHSU School of Medicine. "We serve as the first point of health care for individuals with limited access to existing services and assist them in developing a long-term primary care plan that includes access to community health care providers."

Sonoman Joe with student Zoe TetonSonoman Joe, a resident at Clark Center, was Teton's first patient. She uncovered a number of health issues beyond the Parkinson's disease that he has lived with for some time. She connected him with a primary care physician and specialists. Now he follows up with Teton every time the clinic is open to review what he'd learned from the specialists, and she helps him connect the dots and stay on top of his medications and other treatments.

"I'm really glad the clinic is here because it has helped me to follow through on some issues," said Joe, a member of the Navajo nation who grew up on the reservation in New Mexico and is an accomplished potter. "If they had not been here, I would not have found out some of the issues that I have."

On a Saturday morning in December, Joe reported his progress to Teton, handing her the printed treatment notes from his providers so that she could review them with him. He said it's been tough to learn about the other health issues he has when the Parkinson's has been his main focus, but she encourages him.

"I know that it can feel overwhelming," she says, "but you are learning what you need to do for each of these issues and that's a good thing."

Teton gives Joe her full attention. When he decides he would like to also get a prescription for one of his ailments, Teton has first-year medical student Stephanie Radu check his vitals. Then Teton does a physical exam, reviews his medications and makes a recommendation before calling in a prescription for him on behalf of the supervising doctor on site. Sonoman Joe with student Stephanie Radu

The M.D., nursing, public and community health and pharmacy students triage the patients based on their needs and, in many cases, treat them as a team, each employing their specialties and conferring together about the best course for the patient, getting guidance where needed from faculty advisors.

Soon OHSU School of Dentistry students will also offer free dental exams, x-rays, extractions and other minor procedures. In 2018, the students hope to open to the general public and become mobile enough to bring their services to other Transition Projects sites.

"There are a lot of exciting directions we could take this," said Allison Munn, a third-year M.D. student who is also a clinic co-chair. "It's been exciting to see what we can do. From what we know, we are one of the only student-run clinics that included students from multiple disciplines from the beginning."

The experience Joe has at the clinic is one of gratitude –for the students' expertise and knowledge and also for their patience and compassion.

"Sometimes," he said, "people just need to be heard."

Student leaders at the Bridges Collaborative Clinic
Top photo: Sonoman Joe was Zoe Teton’s first patient at Bridges, set up in the foyer of Transition Projects’ Clark Center, where Joe lives. Teton, a third-year OHSU medical student and a clinic co-chair, performs a physical exam as part of Joe’s recent clinic visit.

Middle photo: Stephanie Radu, a first-year OHSU medical student, checks Sonoman Joe’s vital signs as part of ongoing care that he has been receiving at Bridges.

Bottom photo: Students from multiple disciplines team up to see patients at Bridges Collaborative Care Clinic in Southeast Portland. From left are Dan Stone, second-year OHSU medical student; Rachel Lockard, OHSU-PSU M.P.H. student; Trinity Matthews, PSU pre-med student, and Stephanie Radu, first-year OHSU medical student.