|Sharon Stoolman, M.D.|
As a medical student at UNMC and a "product of outreach," she continued her mother's tradition and volunteered at the Open Door Mission clinic and other outreach clinics. She also took a trip to Zaire where she spent eight weeks at a mission hospital.
When she returned from Zaire, she realized that a missing piece of UNMC's curriculum was an opportunity for community outreach and thus the idea was born for a student outreach clinic at the medical center.
Today at 2 p.m. in the Durham Outpatient Center West Atrium, the UNMC campus will celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Dr. Stoolman's idea coming into fruition as the UNMC SHARING Clinic. As part of the festivities, a special presentation will take place at 3 p.m., featuring comments from UNMC Chancellor Harold M. Maurer, M.D., and others.
How it started
The year was 1996, and in addition to her medical school studies, Dr. Stoolman researched starting an outreach clinic and met with the campus leaders and others to determine if a need existed for such a clinic.
She began work with a small group of interested students and faculty to outline the clinic's mission, structure, location, target population and funding.
Jim Medder, M.D., associate professor of family medicine, agreed to be the faculty champion.
At the end of that year, the vision for SHARING (Student Health Alliance Reaching Indigent Needy Groups) emerged as a student-run clinic that would:
- Provide high quality, low cost health care to Omaha's uninsured and underinsured; and
- Help students develop the compassion for patients that health professionals need.
In 1997, the SHARING Clinic opened its doors at UNMC's South Omaha clinic, which was originally in the South Omaha Neighborhood Association building.
Dr. Stoolman -- now an assistant professor of pediatrics at UNMC -- never imagined that 10 years later, the original SHARING clinic would grow to three clinics that serve both the north and south Omaha communities and involve students from medicine, pharmacy, physical therapy, family medicine therapy, nursing, medical nutrition therapy, clinical laboratory sciences, social work, public health and, most recently, dentistry.
"I love that it has helped the students grow in so many ways," said Dr. Stoolman, who graduated from the College of Medicine in 1999. "I love that they have to make independent management decisions. What are the hours of the clinic? How are we going to get pharmacy supplies? Who is going to staff it?
"I love that it shares a part of the community that many of our students wouldn't have seen. I love that they are exposed to volunteerism. I think that's a really important part of medicine."
The SHARING Clinics have been an addition welcomed by both students and faculty. And the clinics have made a difference.
"Since 2002 when we began keeping electronic medical records, the three SHARING Clinics have had more than 6,100 patient visits and we have also reached out to Mars Elementary School to provide school physicals and to Educare to provide vaccinations," said second-year medical student Justin Risma, who is co-president of the 2007-08 SHARING board.
The clinics have involved the volunteer contributions of more than 500 students and more than 50 UNMC faculty members.
"The students run the clinics and come up with new ideas and improvements, but the SHARING Clinics would not continue if it weren't for the faculty support that we get," said second-year medical student Erica Peterson, who also serves as a 2007-08 SHARING co-president. "The amount of time they spend analyzing and helping our patients with specific needs is overwhelming. I know it's much more than students would ever ask for.
"I think the fact that faculty and students share a dedication toward the same mission helps keep the improvements coming."
The SHARING Clinics are run by a 26-member board composed of second-year students from UNMC colleges.
These students are responsible for the entire operation of the clinics. They schedule patients, recruit student providers, purchase and dispense medications, perform laboratory tests and keep patient records all while working within a budget.
They also help raise funds the clinics operate on.
UNMC faculty members supervise the delivery of care and serve on an advisory board to provide insight and expertise as needed. But faculty advisory board members say the students are impressive in the way they take charge of the clinics.
"The SHARING movement provides students in all colleges at UNMC unique opportunities to care for those in need, to learn about the business operation of providing clinical care and to work and learn together," said Paul Paulman, M.D., president of the SHARING Advisory Board and a longtime participant in the SHARING Clinics. "I salute the students, faculty, staff, administration and community leaders who have helped SHARING grow and thrive."
The growth of the SHARING Clinics is really a story of commitment. Commitment from students run the clinics. Commitment from faculty who take time from their schedules to oversee the students and provide guidance. Commitment from campus leaders who provide the infrastructure and financial support. Commitment from donors whose funds keep the clinics running.
A vision of SHARING
Dr. Stoolman believes that the SHARING Clinics foster a commitment to outreach and an understanding of poverty that makes future health care providers more compassionate.
"It's not something that most kids are exposed to," she said. "They don't understand how people are homeless, how people end up in poverty, that people in poverty love their children and each other, and they deserve good health care.
"If you expose people to that, you might actually foster a new generation of volunteers to help with the cause."