A lot of you may not even know this, but 400 to 500 patients are being treated every month at the Avera McKennan Health Care Clinic in downtown Sioux Falls despite the fact they have no insurance and no way to pay for their medical care. It's paid for through charitable contributions and one night a month the service is provided free by med students.
The Avera Health Care Clinic moved to the downtown center on the south side of the 300 building on Dakota Avenue 3 years ago, but has been serving patients who are poor or uninsured for 17 years. Regular business hours are 8 to 5, but one night a month (the 2nd Tuesday of the month) the hours are extended from 6 to 9 pm and the Avera Health Care Clinic becomes the Coyote Clinic.
Michael Lankhorst is a 4th year medical student at USD. A couple years ago he and some of his med school classmates came up with the idea of doing a student run clinic and Avera agreed to let them do it at their Health Care Clinic supervised by the Clinic's Director and Internist Dr. James Barker.
Dr. Barker says, "I think they try to do in one night what we've been doing 5 days a week, but with the typical enthusiasm and energy of medical students."
Med Student Michael Lankhorst says, "The difference between this and general medical school is a little more ownership of what you're doing. When you get into the treatment plan, it's the best part I think. You are formulating what's wrong and what you're going to do about it. We kind of do that in school, but you get more leeway and freedom here."
Lankhorst says 6 to 10 students usually staff the clinic and will see on average 15 patients that night. They do have a system in place too. The 1st year med students mostly shadow the older students. The 2nd year students act as the nurses. They take the vitals and a brief history from the patients. And the 3rd and 4th year students are doing the diagnosing and treating.
Melissa Mentele has been coming here for 15 years and appreciates the extended hours and effort of the med students.
Lankhorst says, "Long term as much as I think this is a benefit for the patients, it's a benefit for the students. You get exposed to volunteering. You get a group of people who learn how exciting and fun it is to work with these people and hopefully instill that long term. These kinds of students will then go out and practice and say you know I like doing that and I want to go out and volunteer."
The student doctors are already learning the most important lesson in life, that there's no better medicine that giving back.