New clinic offers free healthcare

Second-year medical student Priyanka Handa began volunteering at the Victims Services Center (VSC) as a freshman at the University of Miami. After the VSC performed a “needs assessment” of its members, Handa set out to find a solution to the center’s number one unmet need: Healthcare.

The VSC, which opened in 1994, provides therapy and legal counsel to victims of crime and domestic abuse. It requires volunteers to commit at least five hours of service a week.

Handa started her own project to establish a free clinic at the VSC in January 2006. She received initial funding from the Goldman-Sachs Global Leaders Program, which Handa said “expedited the process of starting the clinic.” Handa worked at the VSC to establish the clinic that summer, and it opened in July with the help of VSC Executive Director and Founder Theresa Descilo.

“It’s really great to be doing something to help people to transform their lives: Spirit, mind and body,” Descilo said.

According to Handa, the VSC clinic is modeled after San Juan Bosco Clinic in Little Havana, which is where many medical students volunteer. Every few weeks Handa sends out an e-mail to recruit medical students for volunteer work at the clinic.
Handa said that working at the clinic is a good way for first and second-year medical students to get additional clinic experience.

The clinic stays free because of its initial seed fund, which was supplemented by an additional grant from the Medical Alumni Association through the John K. Robinson Fund. Handa said that the clinic is also working towards a more “formal partnership” with the Miller School of Medicine. Currently, the clinic is working to sign its children up for Florida Kid Care, the state insurance program.

“It’s been a phenomenal experience,” said Heidi Ashbaugh, a second-year medical student who has been volunteering with the clinic for the past year. “It’s definitely been a terrific chance for medical students to get involved.”

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