By: Amanda Woodbury
In the fall of 2016, a man in his late 50s read his local newspaper. He was in declining health due to a poor lifestyle and inadequate diet. Shockingly, he had not seen a physician for an astounding period of 10 years. In the newspaper he picked up, the new An Lành Clinic was featured, and he decided it was time to break the decade-long medical drought. When he visited the clinic, the man was initially hesitant to open up about his medical history to the doctors. Then, after a series of clinical tests, he was diagnosed with diabetes. But thanks to the genuine concern shown by not only the physician, but also the considerate staff of undergraduate students at hand, a treatment plan was developed to help him lose weight, exercise more, and improve his diet. And the best part of this visit? It was free.
Described as a student-run free clinic that provides healthcare to uninsured patients, the An Lành Free Clinic strives to benefit the underserved community. This clinic is directly tied to the community of the University of California, Irvine, in that the Free Clinic Project is an organization that undergraduate students can get involved with. The project began with Wei Kuo—a former undergraduate student at UCI—who believed that Garden Grove had an immensely underserved population. For example, many residents lacked health insurance and basic resources provided by a medical center. Approaching its second anniversary, the An Lành Free Clinic has blossomed past its potential and ability to compassionately serve the community of Garden Grove.
Another main goal of the organization is to teach health care students of UCI by first-hand experience. Every Saturday, the clinic welcomes an average of eight patients, and the patient has the choice to allow an undergraduate student to shadow the doctors on their visit. If the patient chooses to do so, the students will be involved in both the patient education and navigation. More specifically, each student is trained in health care nutrition and exercise, and they must speak directly with each patient to determine their individual needs.
The current president of the Student Run Free Clinic Project at UCI, Joseph Cachapero, described the experience as a unique opportunity for undergraduates to get experience first-hand. “Other internships keep you behind a yellow line, but the Student Run Free Clinic Project allows you to get your hands on the work and get involved directly with the doctors,” he noted. So if you’re searching for a unique shadowing opportunity at UCI, applications open at the beginning of every quarter.