By Wendy Sarubbi | March 10, 2014 10:41 am

The College of Medicine’s student-run free clinic continues to get statewide and national attention. Recently, two students who are active in the KNIGHTS (Keeping Neighbors In Good Health Through Service) Clinic at Orlando’s Grace Medical Home participated in the Department of Community Service (DOCS) Retreat at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Second-year students Elissa Engel and Grace Logan were among 25 medical students selected to present at the conference and then traveled to the Florida Keys to volunteer at the University of Miami’s largest health fair of the year. There, they helped care for more than 700 patients in a day at three different South Florida locations.

The DOCS workshops included sessions on how to run a free clinic, create a sustainable pool of student volunteers, handle patient flow and even use the use of electronic health records. Engel said participants were especially eager to hear how UCF had teamed with Grace Medical Home, an established patient-centered home that cares for Orlando’s uninsured. Engel and Logan presented research posters and other information on the growth and development of the KNIGHTS Clinic partnership.

“It was a great experience to be able to learn from medical students around the country how they operate their student-run clinics,” Engel said. “Some had run clinics for 50 years. Others were just getting started or wanting to open their first clinic. Everyone was impressed with how much progress we’d made as a new medical school that opened KNIGHTS only a year ago.”

KNIGHTS is open twice a month and provides ongoing care to about 25 patients, easing a backlog of people needing care at Grace Medical Home. Students handle all operations at the clinic, from the lab to patient education, check-in to pharmacy. They are supervised by College of Medicine faculty and physician volunteers who serve at Grace Medical Home. The clinic is funded by a grant from Diebel Legacy Fund at Central Florida Foundation.

At DOCS, UCF participants brainstormed about better ways to improve the flow of services at the clinic and ease waits. Other clinics learned from Engel and Grace how KNIGHTS and Grace Medical uses electronic health records to better coordinate and communicate patient care.

The University of Miami’s health fair included 200 medical students who cared for Key West patients ranging in age from infants to the elderly. The yearly clinic has operated for more than 25 years, and for some residents, it provides the only care they receive. Patients received treatment and information on a variety of conditions, including sun exposure, high blood pressure, healthy eating, exercise and women’s health issues. Because Key West is so geographically isolated – residents must drive three hours to get to Miami or fly to the mainland – many lack regular medical care, Engel said.

The UCF students returned with real-world experience in the logistics of treating large numbers of patients and the impact a medical school can have with greater numbers of student volunteers. Engel said those lessons will be invaluable as the UCF College of Medicine – and the KNIGHTS Clinic – grow.

“KNIGHTS has been such a great experience,” said Engel, who will soon begin her third-year clerkships. “To be able to be part of a team caring for patients and to get to care for people while you’re still learning is a humbling experience.”

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