In 1970, Venice Family Clinic first opened its doors in a borrowed storefront staffed by two volunteer physicians. Fast-forward to today, and the clinic now operates 10 health centers serving more than 20,000 low-income and homeless residents of the west side of Los Angeles County. Care is provided by nearly 250 full- and part-time employees and 635 volunteer physicians.
Many of those physicians come from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, both faculty members and resident physicians alike. Additionally, many UCLA medical students and premedical undergraduates are among the clinic's 1,000 non-physician volunteers.
Helping the underserved
This spirit of giving and collaboration has historical roots, says Robert Oye, MD, a UCLA professor of internal medicine who volunteers at the clinic. "Medical schools have historically worked with community clinics that reach local underserved communities, so we're serving an important role," he explains. "This is a vulnerable population that has had inadequate access to care. Our students and residents are able to play a very important role in the care of this group of patients while fulfilling their desire to help underserved populations."
Venice Family Clinic focuses on providing comprehensive primary care and supportive services while creating a comfortable medical home for its visitors. Of these patients:
The clinic also works to develop the next generation of providers, serving as a training site for some 40 programs in medicine, mental health, social work, nursing, pharmacy, public health, health administration and integrative medicine. Fifteen of these are UCLA programs — ranging from cardiology to pediatrics to sports medicine — and include allied health professions as well.
Dr. Oye's department, internal medicine, provides coverage to the clinic six half-days per week. "We're proud of our continuity practice at the clinic's Simms/Mann Health and Wellness Center, the nation's first health, wellness and integrative-medicine program offered at a community clinic," says Dr. Oye. "One third of our internal medicine residents work there, and I see them having wonderful continuity that wouldn't be possible in other settings. They're able to feel a real sense of ownership about the care they provide."
Physicians and students reap benefits
Dr. Oye sees similar benefits for the residents and students who work or volunteer at Venice Family Clinic. "There is often less time pressure, which benefits both trainees and patients," he says. "At many of our sites, faculty must be heavily scheduled to see many patients in a short time, but the clinics tend to be staffed differently."
This gives trainees more opportunities to connect with patients. "In other areas of the organization, patients often relate directly to the senior physician instead of the resident or student," Oye observes. "At the clinics, trainees are often perceived by the patient as equal partners with the senior physician and are more likely to open up to them."
For himself, Dr. Oye looks forward to shifts at Simms/Mann. "At UCLA, I see patients by myself. At Simms/Mann, I see patients along with trainees, which I enjoy," he says. "I also enjoy the patient population and seeing how appreciative they are of the care and caring that students provide."
By Darcy Lewis