Care Harbor LA, a four-day clinic at the Los Angeles Sports Arena offering free medical, vision and dental care, is serving thousands of Southern California residents who might otherwise not receive help. Western University of Health Sciences faculty and students are contributing to this massive effort.
Services include free dental cleanings, fillings, extractions, root canals, eye exams, refractions, prescription glasses, medical exams and evaluations, podiatric evaluations, women’s health, screenings and immunizations. The event started Thursday, Sept. 27 and runs through Sept. 30.
College of Graduate Nursing Assistant Professor Patricia Shakhshir, RN-BC, RhD, CNS, and Master of Science in Nursing–Entry second-year students Jennifer Rigling, Angeline Ulanday and Linda Fonju checked patients’ blood sugar on Thursday.
“It’s very impressive, the sheer magnitude of people that are here and all of the people that are volunteering,” Rigling said.
WesternU’s philosophy of humanism goes hand-in-hand with community service, Shakhshir said.
“We are in a service profession,” she said. “It’s good for students to learn this early on so it will be a lifelong commitment to perform service in this profession and give to the community and to those people who are underserved.”
Several WesternU colleges have faculty and students scheduled to volunteer throughout the four-day event, including the College of Graduate Nursing, the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific (COMP), the College of Pharmacy, the College of Podiatric Medicine, the College of Dental Medicine and the College of Allied Health Professions.
Fourth-year College of Pharmacy student Drupad Parikh filled prescriptions Thursday in a locker room temporarily transformed into a dispensary.
“I knew this was a huge event,” he said. “As a WesternU student, you do a lot of health fairs. Having 1,200 patients a day is an amazing opportunity to help out.”
COMP Instructor of Family Medicine Nancy Alexander, PA-C, saw a constant stream of patients Thursday morning. Each doctor or physician assistant was assigned a “room,” a private, curtained space for evaluations. They examined the patient and could then refer them to urology, dermatology and other specialty services.
“Patients are extremely appreciative,” Alexander said. “We’re bringing a really good service to people. It’s wonderful to help out people who don’t have any other access to care.”
COMP Assistant Professor and Director of Clinical Education Stephanie White, DO, also saw patients Thursday in the medical section.
“It’s nice to meet so many different health professionals from different fields,” she said. “It seems to be really well organized in the sense of providing diverse services that are meaningful for patients, as opposed to having no follow-through. They’re much more organized in that way.”
Care Harbor LA is doing much more than on-site care, said Care Harbor President Don Manelli.
“We’re a destination and we’re a gateway,” he said. “Patients who have conditions that need to be looked at beyond what we can do here on site are going to receive an appointment at one of the more than 60 clinics that are participating. If they need to see a doctor because they’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, that care will happen. It’s a temporary clinic, but it’s about more than temporary care.”
Los Angeles resident Juan Garcia had a tooth pulled and also received an examination from COMP Assistant Professor Dat Trinh, DO.
“This is a very good service,” Garcia said. “I was going to a doctor, but it was getting too expensive because I’m paying out of pocket. One bill was $400. Then I needed more work done and I didn’t have the money. That’s why I came, to take advantage of it.”
“It’s a blessing,” said Long Beach resident Ellis Powers Sr. “A lot of people haven’t had health care for quite some time. You’re saving lives.”