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Stanford Report, May 10, 2000

Arbor Free Clinic celebrates 10 years of service  


When a middle-aged woman came into the Arbor Free Clinic with a toothache, medical student Megan Fix expected it to be a routine examination. But the toothache was just the beginning.

As she took the patient's history, Fix heard the heartbreaking story of a woman who had suffered through an abusive relationship, been an IV-drug user for seven years, lost her baby, lost her parents and lost her happiness. "She opened up to me like I was a friend," Fix said, "even though she knew I was just a medical student."

In the end, Fix discovered the woman had been clean for three years and was in a loving relationship; she just needed someone to talk to. "I told her how incredible it feels to be able to help by listening," Fix said. "At Arbor, we learn about medicine from people's own stories, not from textbooks."

Stanford medical students have been learning on the job at Arbor for 10 years, providing free medical care to uninsured and underinsured Californians. The clinic was started and is run by Stanford medical students concerned about the need for free medical care in the community. The students get the opportunity to examine and diagnose patients, and all patients see a licensed, Stanford-affiliated physician.

On May 10, the Stanford Medical School Office of Student Services will hold a reception to honor all those who made Arbor the success it is.

"The anniversary reception is just one way of recognizing the generous volunteers and donors who have contributed to a decade of quality service," said Mark Hong, second-year medical student and clinic manager.

Arbor volunteers provide physicals, medical care for adults and children and free medications, if necessary. They perform eye exams and offer free referrals for eyeglasses and emergency dental care. They also provide a wide variety of preventive services, like tests for tuberculosis particularly a problem among the clinic's homeless patients.

Many of the clinic's patients are eligible for health benefits they are not aware of; and soon, Arbor hopes to have social workers on staff to help patients navigate the bureaucracy. "A lot of our patients, particularly our Spanish-speaking patients, fall through the cracks of a complicated health care system," said Hong. "We're proud of our ability to connect our patients into the system."

Arbor receives funding from various community organizations, philanthropic foundations and Stanford School of Medicine. Hong is currently courting community and corporate sponsors to donate resources in support of the clinic.

For more information about donating money or volunteering, or to find out about the reception, contact Arbor at (650) 493-5000 x22791, or send e-mail to SR