Howard University Hospital Opens New Freedmen's Clinic to Treat the Poor

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Howard University Hospital is offering free medical treatment starting today for low-income uninsured patients in a new clinic on the first floor of the hospital.

The New Freedmen's Clinic will be run, staffed and funded by medical students from the Howard University College of Medicine and will be open from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursdays. For one time only, the clinic will be open for general screenings from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday.

Initially, the clinic will be for adults only.

Each Thursday, four medical students, overseen by two Howard University Hospital physicians, will treat patients by appointment and those referred to them by the hospital's Emergency Department. For an appointment, call 202-238-2427.

The clinic is largely the culmination of a dream of Raolat Abdulai, a third-year medical student who began the effort more than a year ago and will serve as the clinic's director. Abdulai, 27, of Silver Spring, said the idea for a free clinic stemmed from an e-mail sent to her by Christopher DeGannes, a medical school instructor, who told her of a course being offered in Portland, Ore., on how to organize student-run clinics.

She attended the course and said she found overwhelming support for a free clinic when she returned to Howard.

"When we had a meeting to see who might be interested, more than 100 students showed up, and there were some faculty members as well," Abdulai said in a statement released by the university.

She later was selected from more than 3,000 women who applied to a joint effort by O, the Oprah Magazine, and the White House Project, a national nonprofit organization working to advance women's leadership. The initiative, called Women Rule!, provided training to help a group of female leaders bring their dreams to fruition.

Abdulai and 79 other women were selected to attend the three-day leadership-training workshop in New York City run by the White House Project. The women learned how to write a business plan, negotiate, build teams and organize themselves and others.

Abdulai and other students later visited and observed the workings of a student-run free clinic at Bread for the City, a nonprofit agency that provides food, clothing, medical care and legal and social services for low-income District residents.

"That's when I really learned how much effort has to go into a project like this," Abdulai said. "We needed attending physicians. We needed a space. We needed to learn lab skills and perfect our clinical skills in order to serve the patients. And I really learned it's a hectic pace at these kinds of clinics."

Undeterred by those obstacles, she and fellow students applied to the Association of American Medical Colleges for funding and received a $30,000 grant.

"After we got the grant, we finally realized that our dream would come true," she said. "I'm so excited. I'm ecstatic. I can't wait until opening day."

Charles Mouton, chairman of the Department of Community and Family Medicine at the College of Medicine and an adviser to the clinic, said the students' efforts reflect the medical school's mission.

"Howard University College of Medicine's mission is to serve the underserved populations and reduce health-care disparities," Mouton said. "Our students are driven by that mission. That's why they came here, because they want to serve people."

-- From Staff Reports

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