SAN ANTONIO (Sept. 9, 2010) — On a recent Wednesday evening, students from the School of Medicine at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio interacted with area residents in clinic rooms at Travis Park United Methodist Church. The students’ goal: to comfort those seeking help with skin problems.
The students, who engage in service learning through the Center for Medical Humanities & Ethics at the Health Science Center, do the spade work to offer a student-run dermatology free clinic at the church two Wednesdays a month. The clinic is from 4 to 7 p.m.; homeless and other individuals can come in and have a meal starting at 6 p.m.
Skin issues are brought to the attention of the students and their supervising faculty dermatologists. On this Wednesday Drs. John Browning and Bahar Firoz provided supervision. Dr. Browning is an assistant professor of pediatrics, dermatology and cutaneous surgery in the School of Medicine. Dr. Firoz is an assistant professor of dermatology and cutaneous surgery.
A church volunteer checked the patients into a relatively crowded waiting room. The clinic consists of five rooms and an office, and is set up with the privacy and equipment of a regular dermatology office.
A dermatology pathologist, Dr. Tom Davis, provides biopsies of suspicious areas. If necessary, the physicians perform excision of skin cancers, even primary melanomas, which are the most dangerous form of skin cancer.
Medications are free to the patients through the support of Blessings International and other medical non-profit groups.
Ten to 12 individuals are seen each clinic session, Dr. Browning said. As a student at UT Medical Branch in Galveston, he volunteered in a student-run house health clinic.
The clinic was offered once a month until July, when an additional Wednesday was added.
“We have treated lots of skin cancer here,” Dr. Browning said. “We diagnosed melanoma on a homeless woman’s face. She didn’t have it removed at the time and we tracked her down to the state hospital system. She was later treated by Dr. Firoz at the Health Science Center’s Medical Arts and Research Center.”
Jennifer Leininger, who received her Doctor of Medicine degree in May, said it was rewarding to help people “who don’t have a lot of access to this care.” She also enjoyed teaching medical students who had not yet received clinic experience, sharing basics such as how to describe skin lesions, how to present findings to an attending physician and “filling in little gaps.”
Melanie Stone, assistant director for community service learning at the Center for Medical Humanities & Ethics, said the student-run free clinic is supported by two community service learning mini-grants from the center and donations from private dermatologists. Mini-grant funds, issued to student leaders Leininger and Melissa Muszynski, helped defray the cost of medications and other supplies for the clinic.
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country’s leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 3 percent of all institutions worldwide receiving National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding. Research and other sponsored program activity totaled a record $259 million in fiscal year 2009. The university’s schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced approximately 26,000 graduates. The $739 million operating budget supports eight campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. For more information on the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit www.uthscsa.edu.