UC Irvine undergrads open free clinic in Garden Grove

In April 2014, a small group of UC Irvine undergraduates had an idea to open a free healthcare clinic for underserved patients that would also prepare them for medical careers.

In just eight months, their idea turned into a reality.

The An Lanh Clinic in Garden Grove celebrated its first anniversary on Dec. 13.

The space at 12741 Main St. operates with around 40 UCI undergrads, according to Andy Nguyen, a UCI senior and the clinic's student president.

More than 18 physicians, 53 medical students and multiple healthcare professionals — both within and outside the UCI community — have volunteered their time to work with patients. Everyone involved is a volunteer.

They have served more than 200 patients who were uninsured or could not afford other healthcare options. The average family income of the patients was $17,870 for a family of four, according to the clinic's demographic data.

When the facility opened on Dec. 13, 2014, Tiffany Pham, now a senior at UCI, saw firsthand how it could make a difference.

"We had a patient who was walking to our building very slowly from the parking lot, and it took her 30 minutes to come inside," Pham said.

After examining her, the students and physicians found that her difficulties in walking were due to rheumatoid arthritis in her knee.

She was prescribed medication, and when she returned for a checkup a few weeks later, Pham saw her make the journey from the parking lot to the clinic in just 10 minutes.

"I honestly think that's astounding," the pharmaceutical sciences student said. "We were able to do something to help her get better, and I feel really proud of what we did."

Before their dream of opening a free clinic became a reality, An Lanh's founders first proposed their idea for the facility to a physician at a Kaiser Permanente office in Anaheim.

The physician had connections with Lestonnac Free Clinics, centers that offer free medical and dental care across Orange County.

Lestonnac allowed the students to occupy one of their satellite free clinics in Garden Grove and provided them with medical equipment, such as test kits and devices to measure blood pressure and heart rate.

The students also needed to decide on a name for their medical haven.

By spring of 2015, the group decided on the name "An Lanh," meaning "peace" or "healing" in Vietnamese.

"We wanted to choose something that would cater to the Vietnamese population knowing that a majority of the community in Garden Grove is Vietnamese," said Kristine Jermakian, an An Lanh team member and UCI senior.

While the students at An Lanh mostly consist of pharmaceutical sciences and biology majors, the facility also relies on students studying languages to act as Vietnamese and Spanish translators.

Currently, the clinic is recruiting students in informatics and computer science to develop an easier-to-navigate website.

"A clinic is not just science-based," Jermakian said. "We need people from all sorts of backgrounds."

Since opening day, the students have devoted their Saturdays, the only day that the clinic is open, to An Lanh. The clinic operates from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Each Saturday, after patients check in, they are examined by students who record patients' symptoms and determine a treatment approach.

Afterward, the students present their findings to onsite physicians. Both parties then inform the patient of their condition. They either provide some recommendations, prescribe medication or refer patients to a specialist as necessary.

"As future healthcare providers, it's important for us [students] to understand the diagnosis and treatment of symptoms," Nguyen said. "We're all aware that there are people who don't have insurance who require medical care, which is why we try to foster a compassionate approach."

Patients visit for free, only paying the cost to attain their prescriptions or to complete medical tests that require lab fees.

The clinic does not make any money from patients, the students said.

Copyright © 2017, Daily Pilot
A version of this article appeared in print on January 10, 2016, in the Local section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "UC Irvine undergrads open free healthcare clinic in Garden Grove - Volunteers have served more than 200 patients since the facility opened in December 2014." — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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