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UM Student Run Free Clinic Leadership Team

Just recently, as a clinic team, we were writing handwritten thank you cards to all our donors of the free clinic (running a free clinic is quite expensive even with completely volunteer labor!). While admittedly the cards were somewhat of a “thank-you-for-donating-please-donate again”, it was also truly a great way to thank donors and think back to how much it’s impacted my medical school experience. So here are some things about what makes the free clinic so great + what I’ve learned over the year:

  • Running a clinic efficiently and on time is incredibly difficult. When talking with a patient, time seems to go by so quickly and it can be hard to keep appointments to the times allotted.
  • It takes a lot of time (or people in the case of medical students) to keep a clinic running. Our leadership team has 17 people on it! When I had initially heard the number of people on the leadership team, I had to wonder, was there really enough work for 17 people to do? Surprisingly – the answer is yes. We’ve even considered adding additional leadership positions to handle the workload. Even now I do not know all the details of each position – but I do know that there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes.
  • There’s also a fair bit of random things to operating a clinic that I had never even considered before to running a clinic too. Soap, blood pressure cuffs, custom-made appointment cards, stool sample cups, hemoglobin A1C cartridges? I didn’t even know what of some of things were prior to ordering to them – it was surprising to me the number of medical things you can purchase online. Thank goodness for Amazon!
  • While we certainly can do more now than at the beginning of the year, it is somewhat neat how much pre-clinical students can do even only months into medical school. UMSRFC has been great in offering early exposure – the system of pairing one clinical student with a pre-clinic student definitely helps.
  • The hurdles to attaining care are extremely high for economically disadvantaged individuals.

I unconsciously tend to think of the medical experience from a physician’s point of view – whether an accurate diagnosis was given, were good doctoring skills utilized, whether the physician seemed empathetic. But in reality, a patient’s perspective is influenced by the healthcare system as a whole including how well and smoothly a clinic is run. Working as part of the UMSRFC has given me a new appreciation for how much goes on outside of the patient-doctor interaction. It truly takes a lot outside work from many people with diverse skill sets to provide high quality care.


Joy, an Ann Arborite, is a third-year medical student at University of Michigan Medical School. In her spare time, she enjoys investigating quality improvements issues in cardiothoracic surgery, volunteering in the Student Run Free Clinic, playing violin in the Life Sciences Orchestra, and hanging out with friends.