Student-run clinics play crucial roles in increasing access to primary health services in underserved communities. All 12 clinics are staffed by UC Davis medical students, undergrads and physicians, and nearly all are in urban areas. Knights Landing One Health, however, is in rural Yolo County.
Roger Hsieh has been part of the care team in Knights Landing for all of his four undergrad years. At first, he was hoping to apply his studies in neurobiology and public health in a real-world way. He stuck with it because of the team.
“We are all there for the same reason,” he said. “It’s because we’re having a visible impact on a community that welcomes us with open arms.”
Reducing rural health disparities
That impact is much needed. People living in rural communities are more likely to die from heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, lower respiratory disease (like COPD) and stroke than those living in urban areas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Medical student Zuleica Rodriguez Hernandez hopes to help change those health disparities. She spent much of her childhood in rural Monterey County and now works at the clinic because “it seems like home.” She wants to practice rural medicine, and the clinic gives her the chance to start that process now.
“Patients in rural communities have unique vulnerabilities,” said Hernandez, a co-director of the clinic. “I am driven to help and didn’t want to wait.”
Her patients are mostly migrant farmworkers from low-income Hispanic households. They often need help managing chronic diseases or the physical conditions that come with farm labor.
Hsieh said the clinic’s patients are essential to keeping California’s economy thriving and putting food on tables yet face many cultural and linguistic barriers to health. He’s proud to be part of a team that delivers care with respect for each patient’s needs and preferred language.
“Providing basic primary care is the first step to addressing the wide range of disparities these individuals face,” Hsieh said.
Adapting during the pandemic
This year Hsieh has the leadership role of managing clinic logistics, including coordinating continued care during the pandemic.
Pre-COVID-19, the clinic was open one day on alternate weekends. Starting last summer, a telehealth effort provided access to health consultations nearly every day of the week — a transition that has been helpful for patients with long and structured workdays. The clinic soon will offer onsite blood draws for diagnostic tests. The undergrad team also distributes donated clothing and food onsite.
“Health care should be convenient and reliable,” Hsieh said. “The clinic is an incredible example of how to do that really well.”