By the University at Buffalo
For nearly two decades, the Lighthouse Free Medical Clinic (LFMC) has provided free medical and preventive care to uninsured and underinsured residents of Buffalo. Founded and managed by students from the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo, the nonprofit clinic continues to expand its services while adjusting to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, both in its operations and its fundraising activities.
Currently in its new home at the Community Health Center of Buffalo, 34 Benwood Ave., LFMC – previously a walk-in clinic – now requires appointments to meet COVID-19 screening requirements. The clinic also provides COVID-19 testing and will soon be offering services such as Narcan and HIV rapid testing.
In recent years, the clinic has expanded the care it provides to include dermatology, obstetrics and gynecological services, and dentistry. The clinic conducts physicals and routine lab testing, including for sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy. LFMC also provides allied health counseling and referral services.
In light of increasing economic hardship due to the pandemic, the clinic started a program to assist patients with food insecurity. If a patient or family is found to be food insecure, clinic funds will provide free deliveries of food for a period of time from Freshfix.com, a food delivery service that supports Western New York farmers. In addition, LFMC hosted a drive to make sanitary products for women available to patients and community members.
The clinic serves a dual function: to provide quality care for the underserved, generally focused on Buffalo’s East side communities, while providing clinical exposure for UB students. Under the supervision of community physicians who volunteer their time, UB students in medicine, dentistry, nutrition, public health and social work diagnose, treat and counsel clinic patients. The clinic operates from 5:45 to 8:45 p.m. Fridays.
For medical students in their first two years, who spend most of their time in classes, the clinic provides valuable lessons – especially about how to communicate with patients.
“Students learn how to talk about difficult topics, such as results of lab tests for sexually transmitted infections, with patients,” said Nicole Favre, LFMC fundraising manager and a second-year medical student at UB. “You learn to deliver news in a way that’s patient-centered and in line with a patient’s goals.”
The clinic provides all services for free, thanks to its ambitious fundraising efforts, including an annual community auction and gala, student events, and T-shirt sales. During its in-person fundraiser last February, the clinic raised $40,000.
This year, of course, will be different. Because of COVID-19, an in-person gala and auction is not possible, Favre explained.
“And many businesses that usually donate to the clinic are unable to do so this year as COVID has greatly impacted these local businesses,” she said.
Bills Gear, Ellicottville Weekend & Lake House Getaway
But, she noted, this year’s virtual auction (https://LighthouseBuff.givesmart.com) features several exciting new items. The Buffalo Bills, AFC East champions, have donated a variety of memorabilia, including footballs signed by Josh Allen and Zack Moss, helmets signed by Jerry Hughes and Tremaine Edmunds, as well as a trove of Bills gear, such as T-shirts, pint glasses, coffee mugs, a Bills custom Yeti cooler and more. For hockey fans, a Rasmus Dahlin autographed Sabres hockey stick will also be auctioned.
Also up for bid are a lake house getaway, lunches, dinners and hikes with UB professors, and ski weekends in Ellicottville. A variety of gift baskets will also be auctioned.
The virtual auction on the Givesmart platform will be live for five days from Feb. 1-5. People bidding on any donated item will receive updates on competing bids throughout the week.
“Everything we are planning to do in the future depends on a successful fundraiser this year,” Favre said.