By Wendy Sarubbi | May 13, 2016 3:24 pm

Johanna Soto came to the College of Medicine May 11 to say thank you – for the healthcare she can’t afford because she doesn’t have insurance and for the “respect, professionalism and attentiveness you provide to me. It is a blessing.” Soto spoke at the 2016 recognition banquet for the free KNIGHTS (Keeping Neighbors In Good Health Through Service) Clinic that UCF medical students run at Grace Medical Home in Orlando. KNIGHTS is funded by the Diebel Legacy Fund at Central Florida Foundation.

KNIGHTS began in 2013 as a way to help Grace Medical deal with a waiting list of patients and to provide M.D. students with an opportunity to care for underserved people in the community. Students run all facets of the clinic: They staff the front desk, make appointments, draw blood, conduct patient education and care for patients – all under the supervision of UCF faculty and volunteer physicians. KNIGHTS has received national attention for providing integrated primary care and specialty services and for partnering with an established free clinic to expand care to the underserved.

In the past year, almost 300 UCF medical students and 40 University of Florida pharmacy students have provided care at KNIGHTS along with UCF social work students. They hold bimonthly clinics at night in a medical home environment that provides ongoing, coordinated care to those who cannot afford insurance and are not eligible for other government health programs. The need for such services is great and growing. KNIGHTS student leaders say they want to expand the clinic with UCF nursing and pre-med students and more volunteer physicians and do more fundraising, including establishing an endowment.

KNIGHTS provides an opportunity for first- and second-year M.D. students to get experience in patient care and gives upperclassmen a chance to mentor their young colleagues. Service at Grace Medical Home is now part of UCF’s third year Internal and Family Medicine Clerkship.

The May 11 event was designed to thank Grace Medical Home and Diebel Legacy Fund at Central Florida Foundation for its support and to recognize the Grace staff and volunteer physicians who participate in the KNIGHTS Clinic. Third-year UCF student Ashley Brown told the audience that she didn’t realize totally the importance of her work at KNIGHTS until she was in her third-year clerkship training at hospitals and clinics. She thanked Grace Medical’s staff and physicians as “wonderful role models in our lives” and said the experience at KNIGHTS helped her understand first-hand the consequences of “the people in our community who don’t have healthcare.”

Soto is one of those people. A native of Puerto Rico, she and her mother both get care from Grace Medical Home. Before finding that support. Soto’s mother – who suffers from diabetes and hypertension – hadn’t seen a doctor in four years. Soto praised the time that UCF medical students spend with her, their interest in how she is doing physically and emotionally, and their ability to educate her on healthy lifestyle changes. “The students are wonderful,” she said. “They work with passion and love. They listen and they ask me about everything from A to Z. I love that.”

The Diebel Legacy Fund at Central Florida Foundation was established to honor Dr. Don Diebel Jr., an Orlando OB-GYN who died in 2002 when he was struck by a tractor-trailer after stopping to help a couple trapped in an overturned pickup on Florida’s Turnpike. The family established the fund to encourage humanitarianism and selfless service in others. Dr. Donald Diebel Sr. and other family members attended the KNIGHTS event and thanked students for their work, noting how much they had accomplished as part of “a medical school that is still in its childhood. Your work is a wonderful tribute to my son. He always thought of someone else before he thought about himself.”



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