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A Community in Unity

Unity-Clinic-physiciansFounded in 2003 by the Augustinian Defenders of the Rights of the Poor, Unity Clinic has relocated a few times over the years but has not lost steam along the way.

Most of the clinic’s patient population are used to moving as well. Although all are welcomed, about 95 percent of its patients are immigrants from Indonesia and China. Numerous volunteers, including physicians, nurse practitioners, interpreters, a nutritionist, and others deliver care to about 45 patients every Tuesday night in the clinic’s two intake rooms, seven exam rooms, and phlebotomy lab.

Thanks to support from Penn Medicine, Villanova University, and other community partners, they are able offer a wide range of services, with a focus on primary care and preventive medicine.  But rising patient populations and other challenges put a strain on services, prompting Yoonhee Ha, research assistant at the Penn Medicine Center for Health Care Innovation, and medical student clinic volunteer, to secure a Penn Medicine CAREs grant to support the practice. The grant will pay for diabetes glucose meters, privacy blinds for exam areas, and other important supplies.

Giang Nguyen, MD, of Family Medicine, and founder of the Penn Asian Health Initiatives, serves as faculty advisor for the medical student volunteers. “Nearly all of our patients have limited English proficiency, and having a place like this which can provide culturally and linguistically appropriate service is invaluable,” he said. “The Penn medical students and residents who come here are able to provide a much-needed service, but also learn a great deal about how to work effectively with interpreters, and how to deliver health care despite very limited resources.”

One of those students is Cole Thompson, who serves as medical student coordinator.  “I’m surrounded by a lot of people who are very passionate about what they’re doing and a lot of people are doing very different things, including working with free clinics, research opportunities, and more,” said Thompson, who volunteered as an English teacher in Indonesia for a year before starting medical school at Penn. “Penn Medicine is a very inspiring place, and this clinic is also a continuation of that inspiration for me.”

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