Clinic coordinated by Feinberg students provides free primary care to Rogers Park residents

Jake Holland, Assistant Campus Editor

Students at the Feinberg School of Medicine are putting their skills to use and administering care at a free clinic in Rogers Park.

The Indian American Medical Association of Illinois Charitable Foundation Clinic, or the Devon Clinic, provides primary care services, lab tests and medication, offering services to the area’s predominantly South Asian population, said Ankita Devareddy (Weinberg ’16), a co-coordinator of the center and first-year Feinberg student. Both Feinberg students and students from Rush Medical College in Chicago provide care at the clinic alongside volunteer physicians every Sunday, Devareddy said.

The clinic is one of the seven Chicago-area community clinics staffed by Feinberg students.

Chintan Pathak (McCormick ’15), another co-coordinator at the Devon Clinic, said though the center is effective in treating patients, the fact that the clinic is free and frequented by low-income patients poses unique challenges.

“A lot of patients don’t have insurance, so if they need to get referred to get higher levels of care, a lot of times their only referral options are Cook County, which often has a really long wait time,” Pathak said.

The second-year Feinberg student also said Devon Clinic does not always carry medication patients need. Still, volunteers help patients find places that sell medication at discounted prices.

Both Pathak and Devareddy said they were inspired to become co-coordinators of the Devon Clinic after volunteering as undergraduates with Devon Clinic Translators. The translation program, organized through the Northwestern Community Development Corps, allows NU students to offer translation to South Asian patients in languages such as Hindi, Telugu and Gujarati.

Marcus Byrd, a first-year Feinberg student who volunteers at the Devon Clinic, said he wanted to work at the clinic to help patients from disadvantaged communities.

Byrd said though Medicaid covers much of the care for low-income patients, it doesn’t always provide the necessary resources for recent immigrants or those who may be visiting family in the United States. Volunteer clinics such as Devon Clinic helps alleviate that gap in care, he said.

“But for these patients, who might have language barriers or extra barriers to care, the existence of this clinics is really everything,” Byrd said. “For a lot of patients, this is their one-stop shop for getting their health looked over.”

The clinic also focuses on aspects outside of traditional primary care, Pathak said. Patients at the clinic often suffer from chronic conditions like hypertension and diabetes, he said, and though both can be managed with medication, the clinic also works on care through encouraging lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise.

“The push has been to get more of an educational outreach out to the patients as well, and not just a strictly medical approach,” he said.

He cited educational pamphlets written in Hindi or Gujarati, two languages spoken by many patients, as well as weekend health classes as examples of preventive care.

Going forward, the Devon Clinic plans to expand beyond primary care. Though the clinic currently provides eye care services once a month, Devareddy said members are currently discussing the implementation of other services like blood pressure education.

Devareddy added that though medical students can often become overwhelmed with work, volunteering at the Devon Clinic allows them to keep their guiding goal in mind.

“People join medical school with the interest of helping people and patients who wouldn’t otherwise have access … Sometimes when you’re caught up in studying or you have an exam, it can be a little bit easy to lose sight of that,” Devareddy said. “Just having the ability (at the clinic) to reconnect and remember why you started this in the first place was a big thing for me.”

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