Answering the Call to Help Others

As an undergraduate at Cornell University, Kyra Schmidt completed her degree in engineering. The possible perspective of working with prosthetics and the technology in the field of medicine was what drew her to the field. Yet, Schmidt felt something was missing. As a high school student, she had the opportunity to shadow at an urgent care center and loved it.

“After my undergrad, I decided to get into medicine because I wanted a career that was challenging and working with people,” Schmidt said. “The engineering program was interesting, but the field didn’t really work with person-to-person contact everyday. So I looked at medicine because it had both, and I could help patients.”

Her desire to help people and see patients led her to also volunteer for the fire department during her time at Cornell University. She worked to receive her EMT license and applied to the local fire department. She was accepted and through that experience was able to give back and also continue to see patients.

Schmidt and her husband, Steven Yao, headed to Lubbock and to start medical school at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. Both are now second-year medical students.

“I was really excited to be studying medicine and once again wanted to get involved in Lubbock,” Schmidt said. “I had worked in a clinic before back in Indiana, and now wanted something to give my time to in a clinical setting.”

Schmidt began working at The Free Clinic and knew she wanted to continue volunteering her time as a second-year medical student. This year, Schmidt became the new liaison-team leader for The Free Clinic.

“We worked with the outgoing team and had a great transition,” Schmidt said. “The first night was great. It was actually the one right before Woman’s Health Day. The outgoing- team was there just in case we needed help. The entire new team are all extremely excited for this year.”

The Free Clinic is a student-run free clinic and is led by a five-member leadership team who serve one-year terms. The leadership team is responsible for many duties to make sure The Free Clinic runs effectively and efficiently week-to-week. They do administrative work at the clinic and direct the flow of patients and students, handle the scheduling of student volunteers, train and orient volunteers, recruit volunteer physicians, compile data, keep inventory, request donations, advocate for patients and students, develop and implement new ideas and services and represent The Free Clinic. The head of the leadership team is the student liaison, who directs and guides the team and serves as the point person for the medical director, the dean's office and the student body.
In 2005, there were about 110 student-run free clinics at 49 medical schools that belonged to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). According to a December 2014 Journal of American Medical Association JAMA, Presence and Characteristics of Student-Run Free Clinics in Medical Schools, the number of AAMC member institutions with a student run free clinics has more than doubled since the last national survey was conducted 9 years ago and are now present at more than 75 percent of medical schools. The 2014 study found just over 200 such clinics at 86 medical schools. Under the supervision of School of Medicine faculty volunteers, medical students have been treating homeless and uninsured patients at The Free Clinic for seven years.

The 2015-2016 Leadership Team, which consists of Schmidt, Mitchell Ackerman
Daphne Arena, Patricia Dushku
and Molly Rooney, all second-year medical students, are working diligently to continue the quality patient-care of the past free clinic teams.

“We are continuing past team projects like the vaccination program that provides T-Dap and Gardasil vaccinations, and also have been working to implement some new projects for The Free Clinic,” Schmidt said. “We are interested in adding an aspect to community education especially with diabetes.“

Running The Free Clinic is a commitment of countless hours. But Schmidt said the team is committed to the hard work to provide patients the needed care.

“There is a huge need for medical care in Lubbock,” Schmidt said. “There is a huge population of working poor who cannot afford health care. That population of working poor who are not quite low enough to apply for state funding, but don’t earning enough to pay for private insurance, they are in an unfortunate situation. As a medical student and doctor, it really is part of our calling to help people. The Free Clinic is a great opportunity to be a part of the community.”

Schmidt said the team wants to make help get the word out about The Free Clinic to other students and physicians. The clinic is in need of doctors in any specialty. She and the team work closely with Fiona Prabhu, M.D., the clinic’s medical director and Kelly Bennett, M.D., assistant medical director.

“Come in and really make a difference, and it doesn’t take a lot of time from their already hectic schedules,” Schmidt said. “I have had a number of patients who are in between jobs and something comes up in that time. Things do happen. Patients like that are most grateful and in the most need. Answering the call to help others is what we do at The Free Clinic.”

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