UNC student-run free health clinic celebrates 40 years of service

April 8, 2008 — A Carrboro-based health clinic run by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill students – the oldest such operation in the United States – is marking 40 years of service with a birthday party at the Carrboro Arts Center this Sunday (April 13).

Every Wednesday night, students from the UNC schools of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Public Health and Social Work, along with volunteer physicians from the Medical School’s department of family medicine, transform the Carrboro Community Health Center into the free SHAC (Student Health Action Coalition) clinic.

Over the years, scores of families, migrant workers and college students have attended the free clinic, receiving services ranging from reproductive health screenings to physical therapy. In the past year alone, SHAC volunteers provided care to more than 1,000 patients.

The 40th anniversary event at the Carrboro Arts Center will run from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. and is open to the public. It will feature a photo exhibit of the organization’s history and music by Hope Marasco and her bluegrass band Down River. Current and former SHAC volunteers, partners and supporters are encouraged to send their memories and photos ahead of the event to shacis40@gmail.com. Information can also be found at SHAC’s Website www.med.unc.edu/shac.

Founded by a group of UNC medical students looking to better understand and improve the health of the community, the first SHAC clinic opened in 1968. Since then, thousands of student volunteers from UNC allied health schools have continued to pursue a threefold mission of providing free medical services, engaging with communities and creating an interdisciplinary learning environment.

Student leaders have continued to expand the organization’s reach beyond the clinic’s walls, such as through a mobile service that provides medical needs assessments, social support and companionship to homebound seniors, and a new Native Health Initiative, which partners with indigenous communities throughout North Carolina on health interventions, advocacy and research.

Achieving all of this requires the dedication of hundreds of health affairs students each year. Bonnie Jones, an outgoing co-director of the organization, said that for students, working with SHAC provides a unique opportunity to serve and learn in an interdisciplinary setting.

“It is a rare life situation where everyone wins: patients get much needed medical care and students get the opportunity to hone skills that will help them develop into admirable leaders in their fields. SHAC has shown me that anyone, including a student, has the ability to help make the world a little more just,” said Jones, a dual-degree masters student in maternal and child health in the School of Public Health, and health and mental health in the School of Social Work.

While the organization currently relies on various funding sources and university and community partnerships to provide its services, efforts are underway to build an endowment fund of $750,000, which would provide steady annual funding to ensure SHAC’s future. The endowment fund campaign is half way towards reaching that goal.

NOTE: Media interested in visiting the SHAC Wednesday night clinic should contact Anna McCullough at (704) 477-8558 or annamc@unc.edu.

News Services contact: Patric Lane, (919) 962 8596, patric_lane@unc.edu

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