The Robert R. Frank Run Free Clinic, established by Wayne State School of Medicine students, had its grand-opening and ribbon cutting April 16 at the Mercy Primary Care Center, which will provide free medical services to the uninsured in the Detroit area.
The clinic was named after in honor of Vice Dean of Faculty Affairs Dr. Robert Frank, M.D. at the Wayne State School of Medicine.
Frank has been at WSU all his professional career and made a free clinic in the 60s. He, along with Dr. Maryjean Schenk M.D., vice dean of education in the School of Medicine at WSU, and Dr. Kendra Schwartz M.D., interim chair of the WSU department of Family Medicine, and WSU medical students made the clinic possible.
The clinic has been opened for 11 months and was only available once a month. David Altschler, student and clinic co-director, stated as of October 2011, it will be open weekly.
“It won’t be open any more than once a week because it would be too much of a burden on funds and students, who volunteer their time,” he said.
The idea for the clinic began a few years ago with the notion “to help the disenfranchised, provide access to healthcare for everyone no matter who they are or where they live,” said Juliann Binienda Ph.D of psychology and faculty advisor for the department of Family Medicine and was part of the clinic since the beginning.
The clinic’s history began in 2007, when Tyler Southwell, then Student Senate president, was speaking to Dr. Schenk about starting a free clinic. Schenk asked Binienda to go to a conference with Southwell where a day-long, pre-conference workshop about student-run free clinics was taking place.
“We walked in the opening session and there were 200 medical students in this large conference room and we had to introduce ourselves and say what free clinic we were from,” said Binienda.
“Students were saying, ‘Our communities there’s such poverty, people need free healthcare, there’s such disparity.’ We said, ‘We have to do this. Wayne State is all over this.’”
Around this time, Binienda had taken a tour of the Mercy Primary Care Center she and other members were involved in, students were visiting and meeting after meeting they eventually chose Mercy as the location.
“Then we went to the second annual conference because new leaders were coming along,” Binienda said.
The clinic however didn’t open that year.
Even though it was free, Binienda said there was a long process of an affiliation agreement between the WSU School of Medicine lawyers and trinity Health lawyers, who supervises Mercy Primary Care Center. There were issues such as insurance and malpractice but it eventually worked out.
During the third conference, individuals were still asking if the clinic opened. Binienda said, “No, but we will be this May. I promise we will be open this May. And indeed, as it got closer, it opened on May 26, 2010.”
“This clinic is very important because there are thousands and thousands of our fellow citizens who still don’t have healthcare,” Robert R. Frank said, “so free clinics like this, without regard to their ability to pay, and give them the best healthcare are very important.”
Frank also spoke about the healthcare act.
“My feeling is we’re finally on the right track here,” he said. “Barack Obama’s plan is not perfect, but it’s a great step forward. “Even with health care for everybody we’re going to need clinics like this that reach out to under-deserved communities and provide the kind of primary care that they need. “I’m a big believer that everyone should have a primary care doctor and it’s possible to achieve that, we just have to reorder some of our priorities in this country.”
Frank said that doctors’ jobs are to serve the people and in a place like Detroit where a lot of the people have basic, serious needs it is a calling for everyone to provide the best healthcare possible.
Frank also said that the clinic goes to the student’s credit it opened.
“My hope is as the clinic grows and more people get involved, we’ll literally be responsible for a very significant amount of patients’ lives,” said Frank.
“This clinic is personally important to me because it allows you to achieve what is best about medicine which is taking care of patients and being able to take care of patients no matter where they come or what their resources are,” said Dr. Maryjean Schenk. “The other aspect is working with the students.”
Schenk said that the students are able to meet patients that come in with undifferentiated illnesses. They must work with the patient and understand all their needs.
“I think it’s very beneficial,” she stated. “It’s a co-curricular activity so it’s voluntary. “The students may not so much appreciate it but not only are they learning how to take care of patients over time in a clinical setting but they’ve learned how to set up a clinic. “You don’t get to teach that in a curriculum.”