Healthcare with Heart: Clinics Provide Free Services Across San Diego County

By Triveni Sheshadri
March 18, 2015
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During a rare lull in her busy afternoon, Alia Holyfield loaded a washer in the back room of an Oceanside health clinic. Before that she had answered phones, took a patient’s blood pressure and medical history, and checked inventory in the supply room.

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It’s all in a day’s work for Holyfield, a student manager at the free clinic, one of four in San Diego County run by the School of Nursing (SoN) at Cal State San Marcos. Known collectively as the Student Healthcare Project, the clinics are managed by students who work under the supervision of licensed volunteer physicians, nurse practitioners and SoN faculty to provide free services to poor and uninsured community residents.

Holyfield, who will graduate this spring with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, hones her clinical skills by performing EKGs, changing catheters and doing pregnancy tests. She is learning about clinic operations as she manages inventory and updates electronic medical records.

The experience has made her keenly attuned to the needs of the clinic’s patients—the working poor, uninsured, the homeless and those who struggle with mental health and substance abuse issues.

“Working here has been an amazing experience for me,” Holyfield said. “This allows me to give back to patients who have had very little access to care. I have learned how to build trust and rapport with our patients. It’s wonderful to see that they look upon the clinic as a place they can come to.”

Dr. William “Gerry” Hardison, volunteer medical director of the Student Healthcare Project, has observed firsthand the impact of the clinic experience.

“The experience is unique for student nurses,” said Hardison, a retired physician. “They are case managers. They are social workers. The patient clientele that they see here, they will never see anywhere else. They learn a tremendous amount. I have learned a lot.”

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The Student Healthcare Project was the brainchild of SoN faculty member Linnea Axman who broached the idea to her graduate students five years ago. Mary Baker and Michelle Alfe, now faculty members at SoN, jumped at the opportunity. The group began to work on the details of opening the first free clinic that could serve the homeless population in Ocean Beach while providing SoN’s baccalaureate and graduate students the opportunity to fulfill clinical rotation, community service and leadership requirements.

The Ocean Beach clinic opened in 2010. Three other locations were added in Ocean Beach, Oceanside and National City.

Baker is a teacher, mentor and sounding board for the nursing students who run the four clinics. As clinic co-director, she splits her time between all four sites as she guides students through every aspect of clinic operations, whether it’s writing grants, finding the best source for supplies or securing space for a wellness class.

One patient the students have come to know well is Terry Tyler. Soft spoken with a ready smile, the Philadelphia native had not seen a doctor in more than a decade until his swollen legs brought him to the Oceanside clinic about a year ago. Since then, the clinic has become his medical home. He comes in for regular checkups and has been able to manage his blood pressure. He helps around the clinic in any way he can. He pointed out with pride the pictures he had hung in the hallways and exam rooms for a recent fundraiser.

“I would be near death if it were not for the clinic,” said Tyler who lives in an Escondido shelter. “These people are my family. I feel at home here.”

The clinics offer a wide array of services including primary care, health education, mental health services, lab tests and case management for patients of all ages. In 2014 there were a combined 3,000 patient visits at the four locations. Nursing students also assist patients with enrollment in Medi-Cal and Covered California health plans, the CalFresh nutrition program and services such as transitional housing.

“We try to pick students that we feel would be the best fit here,” Baker said. “They have to be independent. They are responsible for everything from cleaning the bathroom to calling 911 if it’s necessary.”

Laketa Ducat, a nursing senior, fits the bill. She came to the Oceanside clinic to fulfill leadership requirements last fall and organized group walks, yoga classes and nutrition programs for patients and area residents. Energized by her experience, she returned in January as a clinic manager. Her responsibilities range from greeting patients to maintaining electronic health records, supervising volunteer staff and ordering clinic supplies.

Like many other students who work at the clinic, Ducat is grateful for the opportunity to serve patients who have had little access to health care.

“I hear from them about their struggles and needs, and celebrate their triumphs no matter how small,” she said. “I am given a daily opportunity to put a new face on a health care system that previously represented poor experiences or even failures in the past for our clients. I don’t take that charge lightly. Our entire society benefits when we empower individuals to manage and care for their health.”

Like their students, SoN faculty members are drawn to the clinic for the chance to make a difference. Among them is Susan Andera.

“We are the medical home for people of all ages. Many did not have one before we came along,” said Andera, a nurse practitioner. “There’s definitely a great need. It’s challenging work. We give a lot but we get a lot more back.”

The SoN Student Health Project depends on donations from individuals and grants from private foundations for funding. Baker and her students write grants. They have reined in costs by securing free space donated by churches. They have formed partnerships with pharmacies and labs for subsidized medications and lab services. Recently, students organized a sale of art donated by local artists.

“We have some great partners who help us but it still costs a lot of money,” Baker said.

To learn more about how you can support the Student Healthcare Project, contact Mary Baker at sonhealthproject@csusm.edu.

“Being here teaches students some things they can’t learn in a classroom,” Baker said. “It changes the way they look at homeless people and others who are underserved. They hear their back stories and get to know them as people.”

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One patient the students have come to know well is Terry Tyler. Soft spoken with a ready smile, the Philadelphia native had not seen a doctor in more than a decade until his swollen legs brought him to the Oceanside clinic about a year ago. Since then, the clinic has become his medical home. He comes in for regular checkups and has been able to manage his blood pressure. He helps around the clinic in any way he can. He pointed out with pride the pictures he had hung in the hallways and exam rooms for a recent fundraiser.

“I would be near death if it were not for the clinic,” said Tyler who lives in an Escondido shelter. “These people are my family. I feel at home here.”

The clinics offer a wide array of services including primary care, health education, mental health services, lab tests and case management for patients of all ages. In 2014 there were a combined 3,000 patient visits at the four locations. Nursing students also assist patients with enrollment in Medi-Cal and Covered California health plans, the CalFresh nutrition program and services such as transitional housing.

“We try to pick students that we feel would be the best fit here,” Baker said. “They have to be independent. They are responsible for everything from cleaning the bathroom to calling 911 if it’s necessary.”

Laketa Ducat, a nursing senior, fits the bill. She came to the Oceanside clinic to fulfill leadership requirements last fall and organized group walks, yoga classes and nutrition programs for patients and area residents. Energized by her experience, she returned in January as a clinic manager. Her responsibilities range from greeting patients to maintaining electronic health records, supervising volunteer staff and ordering clinic supplies.

Like many other students who work at the clinic, Ducat is grateful for the opportunity to serve patients who have had little access to health care.

“I hear from them about their struggles and needs, and celebrate their triumphs no matter how small,” she said. “I am given a daily opportunity to put a new face on a health care system that previously represented poor experiences or even failures in the past for our clients. I don’t take that charge lightly. Our entire society benefits when we empower individuals to manage and care for their health.”

Like their students, SoN faculty members are drawn to the clinic for the chance to make a difference. Among them is Susan Andera.

“We are the medical home for people of all ages. Many did not have one before we came along,” said Andera, a nurse practitioner. “There’s definitely a great need. It’s challenging work. We give a lot but we get a lot more back.”

The SoN Student Health Project depends on donations from individuals and grants from private foundations for funding. Baker and her students write grants. They have reined in costs by securing free space donated by churches. They have formed partnerships with pharmacies and labs for subsidized medications and lab services. Recently, students organized a sale of art donated by local artists.

“We have some great partners who help us but it still costs a lot of money,” Baker said.

To learn more about how you can support the Student Healthcare Project, contact Mary Baker at sonhealthproject@csusm.edu.

Collaborative Learning Thrives at CEHHS

by Triveni Sheshadri

On the last day of the fall semester, students in Erika Daniels’ Applications in Youth and Child Development class milled about their classroom in University Hall as they took in the work of their peers. They checked out colorful poster boards, watched PowerPoint presentations and participated in an inventive game designed by a classmate.

The projects were part of Gallery Walk, a collaborative learning exercise where students shared with their classmates what they had observed in their semester-long service learning projects in preschools, elementary school classrooms and after-school programs.

Senior Jason Bandong scrolled through a PowerPoint presentation that summarized what he took away from his work with third-graders.

“I learned how technology is integrated into the classroom,” he explained to his classmate Jennifer Hickey. “I learned how to interact with young children. You have to be patient, lower yourself to their eye level when you talk to them.”

Jennifer Azhadi, a senior, said collaborative activities like Gallery Walk augmented her learning from textbooks and lectures.

“You get a chance to discuss what you have learned with your classmates,” Azhadi said. “I retain so much more information.”

Collaborative learning is thriving in many classrooms at the College of Education, Health and Human Services (CEHHS), giving students many opportunities to learn from each other’s experiences. Activities like Gallery Walk are credited with deeper learning, an appreciation of diverse perspectives and the honing of creative problem solving skills.

“Gallery Walk is incredibly fun,” said Daniels, associate professor of Literacy in the School of Education. “It is a visual representation of everything that they have learned, of the connections they observe in what they learn in the classroom and the real world. They walk around, ask questions of their classmates and discover the similarities in their experiences. The learning is really powerful.”

In Hyun Gu Kang’s kinesiology classes, students take quizzes individually and come together in groups to discuss questions.

“They are given a “scratch off” quiz sheet with answers,” said Kang, assistant professor of Kinesiology. “Students have to discuss and agree on an answer before scratching to see if their guess is correct. If it’s not correct, they have to discuss again. They benefit from having to discuss answer choices, which facilitates peer teaching.”

Kang also assigns group projects that involve study and protocol design, recruitment of participants, analysis of results and presentation.

“They benefit from having to make each of their parts fit into the whole picture, both in visual presentation and in content,” Kang said.

Laura Wendling, professor of Social Studies Education, weaves collaborative learning projects into many course activities. Her teaching credential students bring in artifacts like letters, photographs and medals to create a classroom museum. In another exercise related to collecting oral histories, pairs of students interview each other. At the end of reading chapters, students view and discuss their responses to questions that Wendling posts around the classroom.

“All these activities get students to ask questions. They are learning about each other, learning from one another,” Wendling said. “They are gaining new knowledge, finding new sources of information that’s not in the text book. We are creating a classroom community and an interactive learning environment.”

From Remedial Classes to Honor Society

by Triveni Sheshadri

Featured speaker Tiffany Tooley, an honor student who is working toward degrees in Human Development and Medical Anthropology, shared her inspirational story of hard work and persistence.

“The test that I took told me I was not smart enough to take college courses. My heart told me otherwise. I passed my remedial classes with flying colors,” Tooley told her cheering audience. “Whenever I got down I would always remember what my mother told me. She would say, “As long as you try your hardest, you shall never fail.”

The conference was also an opportunity to recognize fall graduates. Among them was Lorena Davies, a Human Development major.

“The event was a really fun way to present the research that we have been working on all semester,” Davies said. “It was a great way to celebrate all the hard work we have done together. As a graduate this fall, I felt honored to have attended the event and I thank Dr. Bigham for encouraging us to attend.”

The Nu Upsilon chapter of Kappa Omicron Nu was established in CSUSM in 2006. Membership is open to Human Development and Kinesiology majors with a GPA of at least 3.28 and who have completed 45 semester units. For more information, contact Elizabeth Bigham at ebigham@csusm.edu.

Nurturing the Scientists of the Future

by Triveni Sheshadri

Since 2006, the fall Nu Upsilon Research Conference at CSUSM has given Kinesiology and Human Development students the opportunity to present the findings of their undergraduate research before an audience of peers and faculty. The 2014 conference, held in early December at the Student Union, featured the work of more than three dozen students in classes taught by Elizabeth Bigham, Kathy Fuller and Yujiro Shimagori. The presentations spanned a wide array of research interests, from attitudes toward disabilities to stress triggers for college students, from the impact of caffeine on well being to the relationship between fast food and sleep.

Bigham, a Human Development lecturer, started the conference in 2006 to give undergraduate students in her Applied Research class a chance to present the results of their research projects before an audience.

“The conference gives students the opportunity to discuss their work with peers and faculty, and gain recognition for their work,” Bigham said. “It increases their confidence in understanding the research process and they obtain additional mentoring from faculty. Many students comment that the experience of presenting at the conference encouraged them to consider advancing to graduate school.”

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