By Wendy Sarubbi | March 11, 2015 2:17 pm

Interprofessional teams – of medical, pharmacy and social work students – are helping care for Orlando’s uninsured and UCF M.D. students shared those successes at the recent national meeting of the Society for Student Run Free Clinics (SSRFC).

Third-year medical students Elissa Engel, Grace Logan, Benjamin Edmonds, Jennifer Loftus, Errol Inci and Gil Thompson and third-year University of Florida pharmacy student Danielle Bley presented posters and a panel discussion on their work at the student-run free KNIGHTS (Keeping Neighbors In Good Health Through Service) Clinic at Orlando’s Grace Medical Home. UCF medical students began the clinic two years ago and now have partnered with UF pharmacy students and UCF social work students to provide care twice a month at the clinic. The effort, funded by Diebel Legacy Fund at Central Florida Foundation, has helped Grace Medical Home shorten its waiting list of patients needing care.

KNIGHTS’ interprofessional approach – and the lessons such collaborations provide – were a key component of the student’s presentations at SSRFC, and one that gained the most attention from the more than 500 students from across the country who help run free clinics and attended the conference.

“People were amazed that as a new school we were able to have an interdisciplinary approach to patient care after just two years,” said Engel. “Some of the schools there had been running free clinics for 30 to 50 years and still weren’t doing that.”

KNIGHTS leaders say the interdisciplinary approach helps them provide better care. Many of their uninsured patients have psychosocial issues they’re battling in addition to their medical problems. UCF social work students are able to provide information and guidance on community resources to help patients with issues including drug and alcohol addiction, unemployment and domestic violence. Pharmacy students staff the KNIGHTS pharmacy and bring their training in drug dosages, more affordable prescription options and possible drug interactions. “We had a patient suffering from migraines who was also on psychiatric drugs and the pharmacy students had a great perspective on the best options for that patient because that’s what they specialize in,” said Loftus.

One of the student posters was on “Implementation of a Multidisciplinary Model in a Student Run Clinic in Orlando, Florida.” Another was titled “A Model for Multidisciplinary Integration Between Two Universities: UCF College of Medicine and UF College of Pharmacy.” Logan represented KNIGHTS Clinic on a panel discussion on integrating inter-professionalism into a free clinic model.

UCF College of Medicine faculty and students are working to make interprofessional education a bigger part of medical training, saying such teamwork training ultimately provides better care to patients. As a leader in the medical school’s Internal Medicine Interest Group, Inci had brought UCF nursing students to the Lake Nona campus to help physicians-in-training learn phlebotomy. Thompson had a friend at the UF Pharmacy school, also located at Lake Nona. All three worked together and with UCF’s legal team to come up with a way for medical and pharmacy students to partner to provide care at KNIGHTS. “We had to kind of set the school pride aside and realize we had different kinds of education on both sides that could help people,” Thompson said.

Associate Professor Dr. Judy Simms-Cendan, one of the KNIGHTS Clinic advisors who leads the College of Medicine’s interprofessional educational efforts said she was “thrilled” that students shared their experience at the national conference. She said active learning experiences involving interprofessional students must be followed by actual experiences in patient-care settings if 21st century healthcare is going to be more team-based and patient-focused. “You can talk about interprofessional care, but it hits home when students have the opportunity in the real world to work together for a common goal,” she said.

Interprofessionalism of a different kind was the focus of another poster. Edmonds presented “Specialty Care Services in a Student Run Primary Care Clinic,” a study that examined how volunteer specialty physicians like cardiologists provide on-site services so uninsured patients don’t have to travel around town. Students and their faculty advisors can then easily coordinate primary care in the context of the specialty care the patient is receiving. Edmonds hopes to go into neurology and said his experience at KNIGHTS has shown him how we can care for the underserved as he works at a specialty practice.

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