By Wendy Sarubbi | November 5, 2019 4:01 pm

Scores of uninsured Central Florida residents who rely on a UCF student-run clinic for their healthcare now have a new, more spacious location for their care. Grace Medical Home, which has housed the College of Medicine’s free KNIGHTS Clinic since it opened in in 2013, recently moved to its 19,000 square foot space at 1417 E. Concord Street in downtown Orlando, more than double the size of its previous location on Penn Ave.

KNIGHTS, which stands for Keeping Neighbors In Good Health Through Service, operates twice a month at Grace Medical Home and provides ongoing primary care for about 70 patients. The clinic, run by UCF medical students under the supervision of medical school faculty and local physicians, also offers free health education, disease prevention, mental health support, case management and referrals.

The new facility includes 22 patient rooms, up from 10 at the last location, as well as specific areas for pediatric and dental services. With more administrative space and workstations, the KNIGHTS clinic now uses a computerized tracking system to streamline patient visits from arrival to check-out.

Having more space also means the clinic has been able to accommodate more volunteer students. This year, for example, KNIGHTS added a record 55 first-year M.D. students at the beginning of the school year and also increased its number of social work students from UCF and pharmacy students from University of Florida. The clinic also hopes to add UCF students from programs like physical therapy.

Second-year medical student and clinic co-director Katie Porter, said the new facility offers a better experience for both patients and students.

“Patients don’t have to feel rushed because we need the room and the wait time has been shorter,” Porter said. “We’ve been able to process patients more quickly and while we’re only seeing about six patients per night, we’re hoping to increase that number,” she added.

Patients have also seen a difference. “The potential for good that they can do in a space like this is just magnificent,” said Karla Kizzort, a marketing professional who has been a KNIGHTS clinic patient for the last five years. “At the old location, people were tripping over each other. Now there’s room for people to do things and more students to come in and learn. I just want to shout it from the rooftops what a positive this new location is!”

Dr. Magdalena Pasarica, the clinic’s medical director and a physician-educator at UCF, said the new facility will not only improve patient care, but allow for more collaboration and learning.

“I’m very excited about this new facility, as I think it allows a lot more space for discussion and learning for the students,” she said. “We only had a small group of medical students back when we just started. We’ve since added pharmacy and social work students, and now we’re thinking of adding physical therapy and audiology. So we’re going to have more partnerships and more students working together. So this added spaces creates a good opportunity to increase the number of patients we see and increase the number of students learning.”

Funded by the Diebel Legacy Fund at Central Florida Foundation, the KNIGHTS clinic has received national recognition for its outstanding care and its unique partnership with a private clinic.  In 2017, the clinic was honored by the Clinton Foundation for its obesity and lifestyle education program.

Orlando has an estimated 200,000 uninsured residents. Stephanie Garris, Grace Medical Home’s CEO, said her team realized about five years ago that the clinic was outgrowing its old space and began raising money for a new facility.

“There is still a great need in Central Florida and so we are thrilled with the partnership with the KNIGHTS clinic in helping us to bridge that gap,” Garris said. “It has allowed our patients to have a different experience and work with the students while receiving excellent care. So we think it’s a win-win situation.”

Porter, who said she was moved to tears when she first saw the new facility, thanked Grace Medical Home for their investment in creating a better space to care for community members who are often overlooked.

“For many patients, this is their last stop for care,” she said, “because with no insurance not many places will care for them. So, for them to be able to come here to this brand new, exquisite building, it makes them feel like somebody cares, like they have a home.”

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