Implementation of General Surgery Care into a Student-Run Free Clinic



      Student-run free clinics (SRFCs) provide medical care to uninsured, and surgical issues are often outside the normal scope of care of these clinics. The Shade Tree Clinic (STC) is an SRFC serving 300 patients with complex medical conditions. This study describes the implementation and efficacy of a General Surgery Specialty Clinic in this setting.


      This descriptive study examines the demographics and referral patterns of patients seen in two pilot Specialty Clinics and other patients evaluated for general surgical issues from December 2017 to January 2020. Providers were surveyed regarding their experience in clinic.


      Twenty patients were evaluated by six general surgeons during 22 separate encounters (n = 20). Nine patients were seen in two pilot Specialty Clinics for biliary colic, hernia, hemorrhoids, anal mass, toenail lesion, surgical weight loss, and venous insufficiency. Referrals from these clinics to affiliated Vanderbilt University Medical Center included six ultrasounds; referrals to vascular surgery and podiatry clinics; and referrals for laparoscopic cholecystectomy and anal mass excision. STC also directly referred eight patients for colonoscopies and five patients for major operations through primary care clinic. Hundred percent of care was cost-free to patients. Providers reported a median satisfaction score of five with the Specialty Clinics (Very Satisfied; [4, 5]). Hundred percent of providers felt that the concerns of patients were addressed.


      A surgery specialty clinic in the setting of an SRFC is an effective way to provide surgical care to underserved populations with the potential to reduce unplanned hospital utilization.


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