Schreyer group hoping to set up local clinic following volunteer experience

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In less than 24 hours, a Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps clinic in Charleston, West Virginia, saw more than 500 patients and netted an estimated savings of $260,000.

The Schreyer Honors Scholars who volunteered at the site that Saturday in October are planning to bring the same kind of clinic to Pennsylvania.

On Oct. 22, a contingent of seven Scholars — driven by Jacqueline Heath, a fourth-year medical student at the Penn State Hershey College of Medicine — arrived in Charleston at 3 a.m. and were up about an hour later to begin work at the clinic. The team was primarily responsible for check-in, check-out and form handling, but the Scholars also received some hands-on work. Alexandre Bourcier and Samuel Ajamu, for example, helped assist with dental surgeries.

“I had never thought about becoming a dentist before,” said Bourcier, a junior majoring in biology and philosophy, “but it’s given me some ideas.”

Remote Area Medical, founded in 1985, is a non-profit group that is based in Knoxville, Tennessee, and runs free mobile medical, dental and eye care clinics in impoverished and underserved communities throughout the United States and elsewhere.

Bourcier and junior Kyle McIlroy, a biomedical engineering major, organized the trip, with financial assistance from College of the Liberal Arts, the Eberly College of Science, and the Paterno Fellows program.

“This is the first time I think that a lot of the Scholars in our group got to have hands-on experience with what an actual evaluation would look like,” McIlroy said. “You’d read about it in textbooks, but it was the first time that we were able to see it.”

Scholar Amelia Hare, who is fluent in Spanish, helped with patients who spoke only that language (while Heath, Bourcier said jokingly, served as the students’ translator for physicians’ handwriting). McIlroy told the story of his encounter with a patient who suffered from sleep apnea and an aortic aneurysm and told volunteers he had not seen a doctor in four years.

“He wanted to personally shake each of our hands for the work that we were doing,” McIlroy said. “It was overwhelming appreciation.”

The students’ first goal is to create a RAM chapter at Penn State. Long-term, they hope to help establish a free, annual RAM clinic in Pennsylvania.

“We have access to the College of Medicine, which is two hours away,” Bourcier. “Nurses, physicians, even med students can be involved in this. I think it would be incredible to get everyone at Penn State involved in this.”

McIlroy has been impressed by how his fellow Scholars have sought out opportunities for service, often abroad. A local RAM chapter would give those students an option closer to home.

“It’s wonderful to be able to go out of the country and help people, but sometimes it’s not financially viable,” McIlroy said. “So we had thought that maybe a RAM thing here in the United States would still give the students the service they would want to be a part of, but it would be very cost-efficient.

“We’re kind of looking to have permanence with this,” he added.

About the Schreyer Honors College

The Schreyer Honors College, regarded as one of the nation’s top programs of its kind, promotes achieving academic excellence with integrity, building a global perspective, and creating opportunities for leadership and civic engagement. Schreyer Honors Scholars, including Gateway Scholars admitted after their first or second year of enrollment, are a diverse and motivated group of more than 2,000 students at University Park and 20 Commonwealth campuses. The college strives to educate men and women who will have an important and ethical influence in the world, to improve educational practice, and to be recognized as a leading force in honors education nationwide.

Last Updated December 04, 2017