Greenville medical students gain experience, address health disparities at free clinic

Melissa Weisberg, a medical student at the School of Medicine Greenville, knew at 14 years old that she wanted to be a doctor. Now, as a second-year medical student, she’s already been able to work directly with patients by volunteering at the Greenville Free Medical Clinic.

“I really appreciate what the free clinic does,” Weisberg says. “A lot of health care happens at free clinics all over the country … and so, I knew as soon as I heard about the free clinic that I wanted to be involved.”

The Greenville Free Medical Clinic has served residents for 34 years. With four locations, the clinic’s mission is to promote wellness through quality primary medical care. Services are provided free of charge for eligible uninsured Greenville County residents and include dental care, medical care, health education and prescription medications.

School of Medicine Greenville student volunteers do front-desk work, take vitals, triage patients and perform other needed tasks. A student board organizes and runs the school’s volunteer effort.

Weisberg and Kathleen Hill are members of the student board and volunteered at the clinic during their first year of medical school. Hill, now a second-year medical student, is from Greenville and attended the University of South Carolina for undergraduate studies.

Volunteering at the Free Clinic gives experience, and it also reminds you of why you want to become a doctor.

Melissa Weisberg. 2nd-year medical student

“When I came here, I knew I loved that kind of experience and wanted to get involved.”

School of Medicine Greenville is the first in the country to require first-year medical students to complete an EMT training course to certification. Students spend 12 hours each month serving the community as EMTs. Student volunteers must be EMT-certified to work directly on reading patients’ charts, writing down medical information, triaging the patient and finding out why they came.

“It's really hands-on and involved, which is amazing,” Hill says. “It's nice to be able to get into the clinical setting and remind yourself why you came into this in the first place.”

Common issues seen in clinic patients are high blood pressure and diabetes. Hill says that diet can help to mitigate these issues and that another student-led volunteer initiative — Greenville Health Food Market — allows clinic patients to get fruits and vegetables for the week.

The student board works hard to recruit and train new student volunteers. The experience experience benefits both students and the broader community.

“Volunteering at the Free Clinic gives experience, and it also reminds you of why you want to become a doctor,” Weisberg says.

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