Phillips Neighborhood Clinic
In this video, healthcare administration graduate student Matt Eggebrecht talks about his work at PNC.
Find out how School of Public Health students can get involved with the Phillips Neighborhood Clinic.
Public Health students have a big presence on the PNC board this year. From left to right, (front) Liz Hackenmueller (co-chair), Kara Durski, and Wobo Bekwelem; (back) Adam Leonard, and Sarah Ekerholm.
A student-run clinic where it’s needed most
In Minneapolis’s Phillips neighborhood, daily life can feel unstable and unsustainable. Nearly 41 percent of children in Phillips live below the poverty line and 13 percent of adults are unemployed. Most residents have no health insurance.
In these conditions, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease can flourish, and mental health issues can go unrecognized and untreated.
In 2003, the University opened the Phillips Neighborhood Clinic (PNC) to help change this dynamic. Students from five of the Academic Health Center’s seven schools entirely staff, run, and govern the clinic, which operates out of a church basement two nights a week. University faculty members and community practitioners donate their time to oversee the students.
This year, two public health students are co-chairing the board for the first time and the clinic itself is becoming more concerned with public health issues, like affordable care, access to care, and emergency preparedness.
PNC co-chair Liz Hackenmueller is in her second year in health care administration. “I come from a small town and it is always about helping out your neighbor,” she says. “The clinic follows the same line. [As board members], we are responsible for this clinic. If it fails, where are these people going to go?”
On clinic nights, a line starts forming early outside the door. The people who come to the clinic are the most vulnerable of our country’s population: the poor, the uninsured, immigrants, racial minorities, refugees, and those with limited English.
“When you see patients come in with their kids to interpret for them, you see what a huge barrier they have to cross to get health care or even come to a clinic,” says Hackenmeuller. “It’s scary for them. Overwhelming.”
Community Health Worker Program
Last year PNC started a community health worker program to make sure every patient who is entitled for public health insurance gets enrolled.
“If someone comes in for a cold or runny nose and gets signed up for health insurance, the cold remedy is valuable, but the insurance is even more valuable,” says board co-chair and Health Policy student Mac McCullough. “For a community health worker, like me, it’s really interesting to see the barriers to enrollment. It’s good to put faces to the things you learn about in class.”
The Phillips Neighborhood Clinic functions as a “gap” clinic. It helps people take the first step toward health care. Finding a medical home for PNC’s patients is a way to take them out of the “underserved” category, at least when it comes to health care.
“If someone comes in and says they have diabetes, we don’t just say ‘good luck,’” says McCullough. “We give them a referral and maybe even make the first call for them, then we call them to see if they’ve gone to their initial appointment.”
Although the clinic doesn’t charge for services, lab work, or drugs, those things still carry a cost, an average of about $105 per patient. So far, funding has come from donations from most of the schools involved and through fundraising efforts like races, concerts, and auctions. Community partners also play a major role.
Provider support has played major role
Fairview University’s pharmacy gives PNC a reduced rate on generic medications and its clinical laboratory does the same for lab supplies. University of Minnesota Physicians helped establish a sophisticated Electronic Medical Records (EMR) system that allows for better patient care, especially because different student providers see patients on consecutive nights.
Along with Hackenmueller and McCullough, four other SPH students sit on the board: public health administration and policy student Kara Durski; Adam Leonard, who has a double public health/social work major; epidemiology student Wobo Bekwelem; and Sarah Ekerholm, a community health education major.
Students who work at the clinic, on the board, or both, get an experience that would be hard to come by in another setting.
“It’s one thing to volunteer at a food shelf, which I’ve done, it’s another thing entirely to figure out how to manage and provide high-quality care that’s indistinguishable from that given a few blocks away at Abbott or Children’s,” says McCullough.