By Sarah O’Connor, Staff Writer
The Lewiston-Auburn area has a new addition to their community that will benefit a myriad of individuals. Just last month a community clinic was opened on the USM Lewiston-Auburn (LAC) campus. Led by students and supported by faculty, the clinic provides pro bono occupational services to both children and adults. The clinic not only provides a service to clients in the area, but it allows Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) students to get a hands on experience.
For many people in the community, the clinic is a blessing. According to Kelsey Covert, a level two fieldwork student gaining experience and skills to become an entry level practitioner, the clinic does “not bill for services and serves populations who are underserved, individuals who do not have health insurance, and individuals whose therapy benefits have been exhausted.”
Dr. Mary Anderson, MOT program lecturer and coordinator said, “The community is responding with overwhelming positivity. Parents and patients themselves are calling to inquire about services, referral are coming from local physicians as well as other clinicians.”
Craig Ashford, a USM student in his final year of the MOT program, values the experience that he has had at the clinic, whether it is working with clients or becoming involved in the creation of a program that supports the community.
“The clinic allows students like myself to combine their existing talents with their occupational therapy education and apply it in a real world situation,” Ashford said. “It increases the value of our program [MOT] and the quality of our students, while improving our community. Everybody wins!”
Another level two fieldwork student, Lauren Conigliaro, talked about the impact the clinic has had on her personally and as a student.
“[The clinic] has given me the opportunity to have hands on experience, learn and help the community of Lewiston and the surrounding area as well,” Conigliaro said. “It has been wonderful developing relationships with clients, developing my own treatment plans for them under the supervision of my faculty and then see that carried out and make an impact in their lives.”
Dr. Anderson explained the program started with an idea for experiential learning for students on campus. After presenting the idea to Joyce Gibson, Dean of LAC, a student board of directors developed the policies and procedures for the clinic to get the project going.
“The students have been able to put into practice what they have learned in the classroom as well as take an active role in the development of the clinic,” Anderson said.
Covert was a part of the development of the clinic, and she has experienced an impact as a result in her work. Her responsibilities as a board member for creating the program gave her experience with administrative duties, such as creating policies and procedures and understanding the general operations of a student-led clinic. She said that she also saw growth in herself.
“This role [as a board member] allowed me to explore myself as a leader and what it means to be a leader,” Covert said. “Throughout this experience, I have experienced growth in interpersonal communication and self-confidence, both of which are crucial to building rapport with clients.”
The clinic has helped Covert as a student and physician, but sees the clinic helping students in other majors as well.
“Adding other disciplines such as social work and nursing will be beneficial to the clients served as well as the students involved as they learn their roles both separately and as a part of an inter-professional team,” Covert said.
Anderson and Covert seem to think that the program will continue growing, to where the clinic would be open on a regular basis, full time and year round. Currently the clinic is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays.
The USM LAC Community Clinic has a total of six student leaders under Anderson’s guidance. With academic opportunity for students and community impact, Anderson thinks that the clinic has a long run ahead of it.
Ashford added, “Local healthcare practitioners have a unique opportunity to volunteer a little time and be part of a forward thinking educational experience that will better prepare students to be confident clinicians and employees within our community and beyond.”