By Wendy Sarubbi | May 13, 2015 1:35 pm

Caring for uninsured patients at a student-run free clinic has allowed UCF medical students to see the impact of personalized care and re-ignited their passion for community service, students told donors and supporters at a Dean’s Society event May 6.

The students are all leaders of the KNIGHTS Clinic, sponsored by The Diebel Legacy Fund at Central Florida Foundation. KNIGHTS stands for Keeping Neighbors in Good Health Through Service and operates at Orlando’s Grace Medical Home. The clinic is open twice a month and operated by more than 60 UCF medical students who are supervised by medical school faculty and local physicians. KNIGHTS began with students seeing about five patients a night. Today it has grown to a dozen. Volunteer students handle all aspects of the clinic – from checking in patients and physical exams to operating the lab and providing patient education.

Students presented KNIGHTS at the latest Dean’s Society gathering at Interlachen Country Club in Winter Park. Graduating student Mike Arnold, a founding member of the clinic, told attendees his volunteer work will keep him grounded as he begins his residency in general surgery in the Carolinas Hospital this summer.

“You can see the impact of medicine and it reminds you why you went into it,” said Arnold. “Everyone needs healthcare but not everyone has the means to get it.”

Now in its third year of operation, KNIGHTS has expanded to include UCF social work students and pharmacy students from the University of Florida. The interprofessional teams provide a collaborative approach to healthcare for patients who often suffer from unemployment, addiction, depression and domestic abuse.

Dean’s Society members and guests learned that such an approach helps students learn to work as a team. Third-year student Elissa Engel, who studied nursing before coming to medical school, said she loves seeing the excitement of underclass students when they start volunteering. “The clinic has continually grown and it’s great to be able to develop our teamwork skills,” she said.

Third-year student Grace Logan told Dean’s Society members that volunteering at KNIGHTS has given her confidence to see and speak to many kinds of patients and has reaffirmed her desire to go into primary care. “It’s truly worthwhile working with patients face-to-face and I’ve made many lasting memories with patients because I’ve been able to follow them for a whole year,” she said.

Dr. Deborah German, vice president for medical affairs and dean of the medical school, told Dean’s Society members that the opportunity to serve helps shape UCF students to be The Good Doctor. She thanked the Diebel Legacy Fund at Central Florida Foundation, which support both KNIGHTS and the college’s global health initiatives that fund annual medical mission trips to the Dominican Republic. The fund was established in honor of Dr. Don Diebel, an OB-GYN who was killed in 2002 after stopping to help a couple trapped in an overturned pickup on Florida’s Turnpike. The Diebel family established the fund to help encourage humanitarianism and selfless service in others. Dr. Don Diebel Sr. attended the Dean’s Society event, calling the students’ presentation “inspiring.”

Dr. Judy Simms-Cendan, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology, who helped establish the clinic, told Dean’s Society members she has watched her students learn and grow through their volunteer efforts. “When students get exposed to volunteer work in med schools they’re more likely to give back to the community in the future,” she said.

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