Saturday and Sunday afternoons are often reserved for relaxing or studying, but a group of dedicated Tulane University School of Medicine students and physicians spend time each weekend helping people get the medical assistance they need. The students run a clinic at the Ozanam Inn, a local shelter for homeless and underserved people. The shelter just moved into a new space and expanded its facility. This expansion allows them to house women for the first time in the Ozanam Inn’s 66-year history, and the new shelter also includes a separately dedicated space for medical care.
“There are four clinic rooms with real exam tables where we have the ability to do actual physical exams,” said one of the physician volunteers, Helen Pope, MD, an instructor of medicine at Tulane School of Medicine. “We also have access to an OBGYN table, which allows us to give more complete examinations.”
Volunteer doctors and medical students from Tulane and LSU perform basic healthcare services in-house and make referrals to area hospitals when necessary. They also offer several health screenings such as TB tests, Hepatitis C tests and more. Additionally, the clinic now has dedicated space for free dental exams, complete with a dentistry chair and x-ray machine.
The clinic operates as a front line for vulnerable people who need help accessing medical services. Students and physicians can fill prescriptions that have lapsed, refer patients for further treatment and help people access the Health Care for the Homeless program offered through the New Orleans Health Department.
“It would be great if we could treat patients for issues like high blood pressure or substance abuse before those problems lead to major health complications,” said Pope. “That’s the goal of this clinic. It’s for catching the people who don’t have primary care and getting them back into the healthcare system.”