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Upgrade is in the works at free East Side clinic for the uninsured

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Fri, Feb 19th 2016 03:10 pm

With a sold-out fundraiser tonight, UB students running the Lighthouse Free Medical Clinic plan to build on their success

By the University at Buffalo

For 15 years, residents without insurance on Buffalo's East Side have accessed free health care at the Lighthouse Free Medical Clinic, founded and managed by students from the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo.

The nonprofit drop-in clinic provides routine medical and preventive care every Wednesday evening to residents of the East Side, designated a "medically underserved community" by the federal government.

Under the supervision of faculty physicians, students in their first two years of medical school volunteer at the clinic, providing routine care, including physicals, diabetes and hypertension screenings, treatment for routine illnesses, counseling and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, and help with enrolling in medical insurance.

The students have long wanted to do more. Now, they'll be able to, thanks to a robust fundraising effort focused on clinic alumni and the wider UB community.

The students' annual auction and raffle, being held from 7-11 p.m. tonight at the Pearl Street Grill & Brewery, 76 Pearl St., is sold-out. It has attracted 180 attendees, more than double the number who took part in last year's fundraiser.

The additional funds will allow the students to upgrade computer equipment and purchase a new electronic medical records system.

"A new EMR system will help us transition our patients into primary care facilities in the neighborhood to ensure continuity of care," said medical student Claire Maggiotto, a clinic manager, head of fundraising, and a member of the Class of 2018.

To provide a broader array of services at the clinic, the medical students recruited colleagues from UB's other health sciences schools. Students from the School of Dental Medicine, the School of Social Work and the School of Public Health and Health Professions now volunteer at the clinic. Several undergraduates from UB and Canisius College provide clerical support, and a few young professionals who are applying to medical school also volunteer there.

"The clinic provides invaluable training and education for medical students, undergraduates, dental students, nutritionists, social workers and other students from the UB health sciences community to aid the less fortunate in Buffalo," said Matthias Williams, a clinic manager and member of the Class of 2018 at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

That kind of training helps introduce students to primary care - some of whom may be inspired to go into the field upon graduation.

"Every time I am there, I feel inspired to bring my best self and do everything I can for the patients who are there," Maggiotto said. "Whether it's making a patient laugh while I'm drawing blood, explaining how to navigate the health care system to a recent immigrant or giving a sticker to the daughter of a patient who has been waiting five hours to have a physical so she can start work the next day, I am driven by a desire to help our patients in any way that I can."

"My time at Lighthouse has shown me how much the deck can be stacked against people," Maggiotto added. "I think Lighthouse is a place where we can help put a couple of cards in our patients' favor."

Founded in 1846, the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo is beginning a new chapter in its history with the largest medical education building under construction in the nation. The eight-story, 628,000-square-foot facility is scheduled to open in 2017. The new location puts superior medical education, clinical care and pioneering research in close proximity, anchoring Buffalo's evolving comprehensive academic health center in a vibrant downtown setting. These new facilities will better enable the school to advance health and wellness across the life span for the people of New York and the world through research, clinical care and the education of tomorrow's leaders in health care and biomedical sciences.

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