Phoenix Medical School Students Giving Back to Community

The initial first-year medical school students in Phoenix already are providing much-needed community service
The initial first-year medical school students in Phoenix already are providing much-needed community service by working at a downtown clinic as part of the Commitment to Underserved People (CUP) program.

The first-year students began studies at The University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix in partnership with Arizona State University in downtown Phoenix in August. CUP, which was begun at The University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson in 1979, allows medical students to serve in a clinic with fourth-year students and supervising doctors for valuable experience. It also adds a much-needed resource in lower-income, predominantly minority areas. Students work in clinics in Southern Arizona under the CUP program and also provide health education at local shelters for teen-agers, women at a correctional halfway house, middle school students and rural areas.

In Phoenix, medical students are working at the Wesley Community Center''s Centro de Salud, just south of downtown. "Having the clinic open at night is meeting the patients'' needs, providing the service at their convenience," said Emma N. Viera, PhD, MPH, the administrative director of the clinic. "It is a win-win situation: the students get experience and the patients receive a loving, caring service."

A rotation of students - four at a time -- are taking a three-hour shift on Wednesday nights at the clinic, which usually only is open during daytime hours.

"The reason this works is the partnerships developed between the medical school and health care community," said Mark R. Stephan, MD, medical director of the clinic. "These students are getting great experience but they are also allowing us to be more available to the community."

The program allows students to learn about community service and provides experiences working with patients in clinical settings. The students also see first hand the impact of socioeconomic status and cultural barriers on health and health care. The Wesley Center caters primarily to the Spanish-speaking community, so although interpreters are available, the students are taking a medical Spanish class to improve their communication skills.

The clinic serves uninsured patients with basic services, including prevention education and referrals for specialized care, such as prenatal services.

EDITORS PLEASE NOTE: To arrange interviews and video at the clinic, please call Al Bravo at (602) 827-2022.