March 29, 2012
By Aubrey Bittel
|Beka Mullen, a second-year med student, helped lead the effort to open the BullDoc Health Center.|
Wednesday, March 28, marked a day that many people had been working toward for a long time.
"There have been a lot of setbacks," says Beka Mullen, a second-year med student. "It's been about two years in the making."
Mullen has been helping to lead the charge in opening a school-based health center at Wyandotte High School in Kansas City, Kan., and now the work that she and dozens of others have put into the project is paying off.
"It's almost unbelievable that we're finally here," she says. "It's very exciting!"
She has good reason to be proud. The importance of the clinic and the possible difference it will have on the community can't be overstated. Wyandotte County is the least healthy county in Kansas, according to factors such as adult obesity and socioeconomic status. Starting with the community's youth could be the key to turning around the dismal state of its health.
From teachers to parents to area leaders, many are excited to see the changes to come, but questions linger as well.
"One of the first things we get asked is how it's going to be different from the nurse's station that they already have [at the high school]," Beka says. "The biggest difference is that we can diagnose illnesses and other conditions, rather than relying on what's already been diagnosed."
For the Wyandotte students whose families can't afford regular doctors visits, that difference could be incredibly important. Several students treated on Wednesday couldn't recall the last time they had seen a doctor. All services and medications provided at the clinic will be free of charge.
The clinic was named the BullDoc Health Center, a clever combination of Wyandotte's mascot, a bulldog, and the center it was modeled after, the JayDoc Free Clinic. As at JayDoc, KU medical students will examine patients, though diagnoses and prescriptions will be overseen by physicians, such as the Department of Family Medicine's Allen Greiner, M.D., and Josh Freeman, M.D., who have been heavily involved in the project since the beginning.
Meetings with Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools officials and efforts to increase community awareness were essential to the process. But Mullen says the people who really got BullDoc off the ground were the high school students. They assisted in getting registration forms completed, setting up the clinic space and spreading the word. "They wanted this so bad, and they were willing to do the work to make it happen," she says. "They're just amazing."
Many of the Wyandotte students say they plan to pursue careers in health care. If the students' efforts are any indication of the work they will put into their careers, the community has reason to be optimistic.
The BullDoc clinic will continue to rely on Wyandotte students for help. On Wednesday, the high school students donned white lab coats to match the medical students as they recorded data, checked in visitors and brainstormed ideas to improve the center.
The community will be instrumental in making improvements, as well. A forum is scheduled for Thursday, April 5, from 6:30-8 p.m. at St. Peter's CME Church at 1419 N. Eighth Street. The public is invited to attend and learn more about the services that are provided, how they can get involved, and to voice any concerns or suggestions.
"This is a community project," Beka says. "We're relying on everyone to tell us what they need."
The BullDoc clinic is scheduled to be open from 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on April 11 and 25 and on every Wednesday in May. To see a video created by Wyandotte students to promote the BullDoc clinic, use this link.