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MU Student-Run Clinic Offers Free Services to Uninsured Patients; Volunteers Learn How to Become Future Health Care Providers

September 14th, 2011

Story Contact: MU News Bureau, 573-882-6211,

MU Student-Run Clinic Offers Free Services to Uninsured Patients; Volunteers Learn How to Become Future Health Care Providers from MU News Bureau on Vimeo.

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COLUMBIA, Mo. – More than 50 million Americans do not have health insurance, according to the U.S. Census. In order to address the growing gap in access to health care, students at the University of Missouri established a clinic that offers free health services to uninsured patients and education programs for community members. MedZou Community Health Clinic also gives students an opportunity to learn how to efficiently operate a health care facility.

Mariah Dreisinger, one of MedZou’s student directors, says clinic volunteers receive valuable experience working with students and professionals from other disciplines.

“The structure of MedZou is unique in that it is completely student operated,” said Mariah Dreisinger, a medical student and MedZou’s director of patient services and programs. “The clinic is a place where students from all disciplines, including medicine, public health, nursing, pharmacy, social work, physical therapy and health administration, combine their skills and provide quality care to people who need it.”

Although patients are seen by licensed physicians, the clinic is staffed by student volunteers. Since its opening three years ago, MedZou has served more than 500 patients. The clinic’s leaders hope to continue expanding to provide care for more citizens in Mid-Missouri.

“MedZou has been successful because it is a true team effort,” said Jane McElroy, one of MedZou’s faculty advisers and an assistant professor of family and community medicine and public health. “The students have been able to manage the clinic, increase services and provide exceptional care and education to community members.”

Jane McElroy, one of MedZou’s faculty advisers, credits the success of the clinic to the students’ teamwork.

One of MedZou’s community outreach programs, Act On Knowledge (AOK), aims to educate underserved community members about risk factors for chronic diseases. AOK leaders teach participants about the risks of smoking and alcohol consumption as well as the benefits of reducing stress, exercising and maintaining a healthy diet to prevent diseases.

Alex Sable-Smith, assistant director for patient education at MedZou, leads the Act on Knowledge outreach program that teaches community members about chronic disease prevention and healthy living.

“Community outreach programs like AOK allow us to focus not just on one disease, but more broadly on teaching people about healthy lifestyles,” said Alex Sable-Smith, a medical student and assistant director for patient education. “We try to make the presentations interactive and fun to allow participants to ask questions and better understand the health issues they face.”

MedZou is open weekly on Thursday evenings with an additional night of specialty services once a month. This fall, MedZou will add services, including comprehensive diabetes care, dermatology, physical therapy and physical medicine and rehabilitation.
MedZou is funded annually by a donation from the University of Missouri School of Medicine and grants from several organizations, including the Mid-Missouri Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. MedZou volunteers work closely with the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services and the federally qualified Family Health Center to provide health care to patients in the Columbia area.