Lakewood Ranch Herald

LECOM students offer homeless health care

BRADENTON — He saw the car coming. Evidently, the car’s driver didn’t see him.

So when James Jaquier swerved to avoid the vehicle as he rode his bike along 30th Avenue West, he flipped over the handle bars, hit the ground, gashed open his forehead and sliced up a finger.

Jaquier, who goes by JJ, is homeless and doesn’t have a source of income. He didn’t visit a hospital because he volunteers at the Bill Galvano One-Stop Center and knows about the free medical clinic that opened there last month.

The Lake Erie College of Medicine in Lakewood Ranch, in collaboration with the Manatee County Community Coalition on Homelessness, now provides medical care to the area homeless inside the center at 701 17th Ave. W., Bradenton.

Under the guidance of Anthony Ferretti, LECOM’s assistant dean of clinical education, fourth-year students offer services as part of their clinical training to become osteopathic physicians.

“It’s basic health care for a population that desperately needs it,” said Mike Polin, LECOM spokesman.

Ferretti said it can sometimes be difficult to get the homeless in for treatment.

“For most of them, medicine is not on their top-10 list,” he said. Things like food, water and shelter, he said, are more important.

Currently, two medical students and a LECOM professor man the clinic from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays.

But if the need grows and the clinic can get more community physicians to supervise students, they’d like to expand the hours to 9 a.m.- 5 p.m., said Robert Fernandez, a LECOM family medicine professor who supervised two students Wednesday.

The clinic consists of an office and three exam rooms.

Medical supplies, including exam tables, face masks and latex gloves, were donated by local physicians, Manatee Memorial Hospital and community members.

The office does not give vaccinations, but the supervising doctor can write prescriptions for patients.

Since it opened, the students and physicians have seen 85 patients, said clinic Director Rhonda Barbacane.

When JJ popped into the clinic Wednesday morning to get checked out, Barbacane looked at his hand and was a bit confused.

Someone had stitched his finger up.

“Who did that and how?” she asked him.

JJ explained the crash happened on Christmas Eve and that afterwards, he returned to the Bradenton homeless camp where he lives. His friend Ben Love used a needle and thread to piece his finger back together.

The medical students were impressed with Love’s stitch job — clean with no apparent infection.

“It looks fine,” said 26-year-old LECOM student Vikram Palkar, who examined the wound to make sure it was healing properly.

“You just can’t buy a job now,” said JJ. “So these guys are great. I appreciate the clinic and their care.”

Coincidently, after JJ left, Love was waiting to be seen by a doctor.

“Yeah, they call me Doctor Love at the camp,” he said as he sat and filled out medical history paperwork.

He said it took about 15 minutes to stitch JJ up.

“You could actually see his ligaments,” Love said.

Back in the office, LECOM student Ali Kandil, 28, recalled a patient who had just returned from an African mission trip.

“He came in with abdominal pains and had a history of malaria,” said Kandil, who wore a stethoscope around his neck.

The man got lucky, Kandil said. LECOM doctors and students were able to treat him for malaria-related complications and he’s doing fine.

Opened in October, the One-Stop Center provides meals, job placement assistance and military veteran services to those in need.

Adell Erozer, the local homeless coalition’s executive director, said she’s thrilled to have LECOM students and faculty working at the One-Stop Center.

“We would not be able to provide this type of service without LECOM’s help,” she said.

Local physicians interested in supervising students at the clinic can call (941) 567-6156 for information.