September 2009, Volume 13, Number 7

COVERSTORY

New clinic provides primary care for Miami’s most vulnerable

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Almost every major network and cable channel has one: a drama series about health care professionals.

The ailments that generally present themselves in scripted television are big, complicated messes – diseases hard to diagnose, rare medical maladies, the aftermath of catastrophes so far-fetched, even the most naïve among us can’t bear to watch.

Real life is different. Most maladies are insidious. If undiagnosed and untreated, they wreak silent havoc in the most conventional ways: plaque in arteries, overworked thyroids, failing kidneys, a pancreas that can’t produce insulin.

For most of us, these illnesses are discovered and treated by a primary care physician on regular visits to the doctor. But for the nearly 10,000 men, women and children who, each month, find themselves without income or homeless in South Florida, the care of a medical doctor can be hard to come by.

A new clinic operated by Miami Dade College’s Medical Center Campus and the Miami Rescue Mission now provides a safe place for 1,400 people to regularly get the kind of care they otherwise would only receive sporadically at best.

A decade in the making

Annette Gibson, a professor of nursing at Medical Center Campus, has spent decades caring for patients and teaching students to do the same. A registered nurse with a master’s in nursing and a master’s in education, Gibson joined MDC’s faculty 30 years ago. To hear Gibson speak about her profession – education and nursing – is like listening as an artist describes her process: the woman and the work are wholly connected. “This clinic can be a sanctuary for all types of people,” she said on a recent visit to the Miami Rescue Mission Medical Clinic shortly after the center’s grand opening.

That event was attended by the likes of Miami Mayor Manny Díaz; Dr. Ana M. Viamonte Ros, Florida’s surgeon general; and State Rep. James Bush III, among many others. It also marked a triumph after 10 years of dedicated work, Gibson said.
But the way she moves around the clinic, examining rooms awaiting patients and speaking to the staff, you know intrinsically that triumph doesn’t mean the end of the line.

For Gibson, a caregiver to the core, it means more work. And more opportunities to teach future nurses how to properly carry on a legacy established by nurses like Gibson, and her colleagues, including fellow nurses Connie Miller and Marie Etienne, physician Dr. Pete Gutiérrez (the clinic director), and other faculty at Medical Center Campus.

“It’s amazing being able to learn from faculty who really care about what they do,” said Dorotie Andre, a student pursuing an associate degree in the Accelerated Nursing program.

Andre entered the program with a bachelor’s in psychology. When she decided on pursuing her nursing degree, she chose MDC because she was impressed with the opportunity to learn about community health.

Those opportunities were also a determinant for her classmate, Melody Leeds, who entered MDC with a bachelor’s in political science and a master’s in public health.

Providing care to the most vulnerable of patients at community health fairs and locations like the Miami Rescue Mission Medical Clinic, gives students an opportunity to see the “transformative” power of primary care, Leeds said.

A prototype project

The Miami Rescue Mission Medical Clinic rounds out an already extensive community health program at MDC (see “Community-centered health education”). In addition to an annual health fair that reaches thousands, faculty members lead students in caring for the underserved in locations throughout the county, and as far away as the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Marilyn Brummitt, the community development director at the Miami Rescue Mission, said MDC’s program is a “prototype,” because “no other community college in the nation has executed this type of project.”

Staffing the clinic is part of students’ required rotation, especially for the Physician Assistant (P.A.) program, which requires six weeks of experience in obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics and family medicine, explained Gutiérrez, chair of the P.A. program. Gutiérrez worked with Gibson to furnish the clinic and set up operations with a $25,000 grant Gibson received from the Boston Scientific Foundation as well as a grant from the Michael Capponi Group.

— Gariot P. Louima


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Miami Dade College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award associate and baccalaureate degrees.
Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Miami Dade College.
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disability, veteran’s status, sexual orientation, or genetic information. Contact the Office of Equal Opportunity Programs/ADA Coordinator, at 305.237.2577 for information.