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UC Davis Health System

UC Davis Health System

Student-run clinics offer community health care

Photo of medical student with clinic patient

UC Davis medical student examines a Joan Viteri Memorial Clinic patient. 

It didn’t look like much from the outside, but an aging, 35-foot-long motorhome made a big difference in the lives of the less fortunate. Rolling through some of Sacramento’s toughest neighborhoods, the mobile health clinic used to deliver medicine, health information and compassion to a patient population comprised mainly of drug users and sex workers. This doctor’s-office-on-wheels — known formally as the Joan Viteri Memorial Clinic — was one of the five community clinics sponsored by UC Davis School of Medicine and run entirely by its medical students.

While the motorhome itself recently succumbed to ravages of vehicle time, the Viteri clinic itself is alive and thriving each and every weekend, operating out of small, community services building on a street not far from UC Davis Medical Center.

For more than 30 years, UC Davis has been operating clinics in the inner city neighborhoods of Sacramento, providing free care to uninsured, low-income and other underserved populations. The clinics annually offer thousands of people with what is often their only access to health care. The program gives medical students and undergraduates hands-on experience and allows them to take part in the challenges and rewards of patient care and community medicine.

As an integral part of the first two years of medical school at Davis, many students say their community clinic experience prompted them to choose a primary care specialty for training after graduation. Undergraduates also gain invaluable skills. Those with plans for careers in health care often help by serving as interpreters, patient advocates, receptionists and lab workers.

UC Davis' student-run clinics serve several distinct groups of patients, providing them culturally sensitive health care in a respectful and comfortable environment. At least two volunteer, licensed physicians supervise the students and assist with patient care at each clinic. It is a program that has been nationally recognized as a model partnership between an academic medical center and the local community.

Overall, the clinics offer a unique contribution to the health of Sacramento residents. In addition to the Joan Viteri mobile facility, there are four other clinics run by UC Davis students:

Paul Hom Asian Clinic

For the Asian-Pacific Islander community, the Paul Hom Asian Clinic provides primary and acute care services to elderly Asians and recent immigrants. Founded in 1972, it is the oldest Asian health clinic in the United States. More than 50 medical and undergraduate students and more than 40 physicians volunteer at this clinic on an annual basis.

Photo of medical student treating clinic patient

UC Davis medical student gives care to a clinic patient. 

Clinic Tepati

Clinic Tepati got its start in 1974, with a focus on serving downtown Sacramento's Hispanic population. Its Spanish translation services allow volunteers to communicate effectively and help care for more than a thousand uninsured patients of all ages each year.

Imani Clinic

The Imani Clinic was established in the Oak Park neighborhood to address the persistent morbidity and mortality rates from hypertension, heart disease, cancer and inadequate prenatal care. Volunteers emphasize health education and awareness for a predominately African American population.

Shifa Clinic

The Shifa Clinic is located next door to a mosque not far from the State Capitol. It mainly serves patients from the Muslim community who face language and other cultural barriers to traditional medical care access. The clinic provides translation services in Urdu, Arabic, Farsi and Punjabi. Volunteers are dedicated to meeting not only on patient medical needs, but also their religious and cultural preferences.