UDM Students and Faculty Are Familiar Faces at Highland Park Center

Healthy Times, Summer 2002

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With finals and year-end projects perilously close, first-year physician assistant student Chauna Brooks was not a woman with a lot of time on her hands in late April. Yet she made it a priority to finish writing a grant proposal to the National Physician Assistant Foundation, in hopes of obtaining an EKG machine for the Thea Bowman Nurse-Managed Health Center in Highland Park where she and other University of Detroit Mercy students and faculty volunteer.

"I feel like I owe the patients something for allowing me to be part of their medical care," she says. "An EKG machine could really improve their lives."

The center's volunteer medical staff has provided primary health care to uninsured residents of Highland Park, Hamtramck and surrounding areas since 1995.

"Many students are surprised when they learn these patients are not destitute or homeless, they're people with jobs and families who can't afford medical insurance," says Suzanne Warnimont, associate professor and physician assistant program director at UDM.

Warnimont has volunteered at the center since it opened and served on its board of directors from 1995 to 2001. She and Sharon Moser, physician assistant instructor, work at the center once a month and usually bring along two or more students to observe and assist. Sarah Halter, assistant professor, McAuley School of Nursing, has been a clinic volunteer for four years and is often accompanied by family nurse practitioner students. Her McAuley colleague, assistant professor Merry Stewart, is also a regular volunteer.

According to Warnimont, the time students spend at the center helps them become better practitioners.

"Beyond the clinical skills they gain, they develop a better understanding of cost, quality and access to health care," she says. "They become more aware of bigger societal issues and see first hand why health care providers need to take responsibility for issues of social justice. We hope they'll continue to help those without access to care after they graduate."

That's definitely in Chauna Brook's plans.

"It's been a great experience and inspired me to work with the underserved after I graduate," she says. And in the meantime, she's keeping her fingers crossed that the EKG machine will come through.

The Thea Bowman Nurse-Managed Health Center is seeking additional volunteers. Interested alumni should contact Cara Bush at (313) 866-2415.