Student Run Clinic Seeks to Combat a National Crisis

A new Congestive Heart Failure Clinic at St. Vincent’s House run by medical students at the University of Texas Medical Branch is striving to better educate uninsured patients about heart failure, its complications and how best to manage the condition. The comprehensive care clinic at St. Vincent’s House in Galveston provides post-discharge heart failure patients with bi-weekly interprofessional services such as respiratory and occupational therapy by supervised UTMB students who will also monitor vitals, discuss diet, and engage in supervised exercise.

“For those without many resources, a heart failure diagnosis can mean endless emergency readmissions, slowly deteriorating health and financial burdens,” said Jenna Reisler, cofounder of the clinic and medical student at UTMB. “We wanted to take that burden off of our community and create a program to better monitor and care for the patients, especially those uninsured and facing socioeconomic difficulties.”

Heart disease has been the number one cause of death in Texas according to reports from the Texas Department of State Health Services. The same reports also highlighted the substantial financial burden of heart disease with hospitalization charges related to heart disease and stroke reaching $23 billion in 2016, and trends suggest this problem will continue in the future.

The Congestive Heart Failure Clinic officially opened door in January this year, managed and run by interprofessional students at UTMB, the clinic has since become one of the largest student run clinics in the country. The clinic recently earned the President’s Cabinet awards at UTMB, joining over 170 community programs and initiatives supported by faculty, staff, community members and alumni.

“Our goal is to make this clinic a permanent structure and continue to provide medical care and services to those in need,” said Reisler. “Hopefully we can create a successful model for other institutions to follow.”

The Congestive Heart Failure Clinic is free of charge and provides a 60-day program incorporating exercise, nutrition counseling, smoking cessation, cognitive behavioral therapy, and medical evaluations. Partnerships with social workers and community health workers also ensure the patients have transportation, safe housing, and a stable food supply.