SAN ANTONIO (July 31, 2008)—The concept is simple yet profound: Training medical students in the community where they are needed, rather than solely in classrooms, results in a well-rounded, more-compassionate physician of the future.
Richard Usatine, M.D., professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, embraces this philosophy. It was a driving factor as he led dozens of medical students in founding the on-site Student-Run Free Clinic at Alpha Home, which is a haven for indigent women who have urgent but unmet medical needs.
The free clinic, offered six evenings a month at Alpha Home, has changed many lives. In 2007 alone, about 750 women received free medical care in the clinic. The student and faculty volunteers made this possible by donating 1,800 hours of medical care, said Julie Wisdom-Wild, Alpha Home chief executive officer. Uninsured women who might have sought care in an emergency room instead received one-on-one attention in the Alpha Home surroundings.
“Before our clinic, our ladies would have to be away from our treatment program for up to 30 hours to be seen in the ER,” Wisdom-Wild said. “By allowing our clients to remain in treatment, our clinic saves lives and keeps families together.”
This spring, Wisdom-Wild nominated Dr. Usatine for the United Way Volunteer of the Year Individual in Service Award. Recently, Dr. Usatine was honored with other individual winners in the agency category.
Wisdom-Wild wrote in her nomination: “No one deserves the United Way Volunteer of the Year Award any more than Dr. Richard Usatine. He is the most compassionate person I have ever met. His many hours of volunteering at Alpha Home have resulted in lives being changed forever.”
“I was blessed to receive this award,” Dr. Usatine said. “It was very special and is for all the work that our students and faculty do. The mission of the Student-Run Free Clinic at Alpha Home is to provide dignity and quality medical care to unserved women and to provide a human experience to the medical students who will be able to see addiction as a health problem and not a moral issue.”
Thanks to Dr. Usatine’s leadership, the other dedicated faculty volunteers, and the earnest caring and desire to learn exhibited by medical students, another on-site Student-Run Free Clinic is in operation at SAMMinistries Transitional Living and Learning Facility in San Antonio.
“I am motivated to inspire students to become excellent doctors who are caring and concerned about their patients and communities,” Dr. Usatine said. “As a teacher, I advocate for a health care system and medical education system that is humane and responsive to the needs of our population including the needs of the most vulnerable persons in our world.”
Dr. Usatine, who taught at UCLA and established student-run free clinics in California before joining the Health Science Center, has been named by his peers as one of the Best Doctors in America every year since 2000.
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is the leading research institution in South Texas and one of the major health sciences universities in the world. With an operating budget of $576 million, the Health Science Center is the chief catalyst for the $15.3 billion biosciences and health care sector in San Antonio’s economy. The Health Science Center has had an estimated $35 billion impact on the region since inception and has expanded to six campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. More than 23,000 graduates (physicians, dentists, nurses, scientists and allied health professionals) serve in their fields, including many in Texas. Health Science Center faculty are international leaders in cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, aging, stroke prevention, kidney disease, orthopaedics, research imaging, transplant surgery, psychiatry and clinical neurosciences, pain management, genetics, nursing, allied health, dentistry and many other fields. For more information, visit www.uthscsa.edu.