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Students Pledge $1M To UC San Diego Free Clinic

An undated photo of Dr. Ellen Beck, director and co-founder of the UC San Diego Student-Run Free Clinic Project.
UC San Diego
An undated photo of Dr. Ellen Beck, director and co-founder of the UC San Diego Student-Run Free Clinic Project.

Students Pledge $1M To UC San Diego Free Clinic
Students Pledge More Than $1M To UC San Diego Free Clinic GUESTS: Dr. Ellen Beck, director, UCSD Student-Run Free Clinic Project Lt. Anthony Kuleto, resident pediatrician, Naval Medical Center San Diego

The you see -- UC Karnik system now has received millions of pledges for medical students who have treated in distant -- indigent patients at the Kleenex. Joining the took spinal the pledges began on how much it takes to operate the fleet clinic are my guests, Doctor Ellen back cofounder of this student run free clinic project. Welcome to the program. Thank you. Also joining this is Lieutenant Anthony collateral who is a physician at the San Diego Naval Center. He was the one of the first -- he was one of the first to make the pledge. Doctor Beck, give us a history of the student run clinic. When did this start at this school? It began in 1997. We have grown over the years to have more sites and numerous services, including dental care, medical care, primary specialty, pharmacy, labs. We provide high-quality, comprehensive healthcare any respect full fashion to people who have no eligibility for access to healthcare. If they have eligibility, we help them get it and we send them elsewhere. We serve people long-term who have no eligibility for healthcare, while we do the best to inspire the next generation of health professionals. Now we go to Anthony, one of the next generation. You work -- worked at the free clinic. What did you learn there that you couldn't in the classroom? What the free clinic does is it with the humanity back into medicine. For a lot of us the act of going to medical school, after a while strips away a lot of your personhood and you are exposed to some things that are challenging to deal with. You almost feel drained. The free clinic injects that. The opportunity to work one-on-one with these amazing people, these amazing mentors, allows you to really turn your focus back on to what really matters in medicine which is the patient provider relationship. This is an inspiring place to be. Anthony, how did the idea come about to have students pledge support for the maintenance of the clinic? We are fortunate. Another student of mine, a colleague is currently in emergency medicine resident in Arizona had done some prior nonprofit work. This was his brainchild. He took this site via from a process that he had used prior and thought, maybe we can, through this pledge, create a watershed for future donations in a way that would the self-sustaining for a project that we feel like a bus so much. Poor medical students can't really donate anything so it -- this happens after the medical students become practicing doctors. That's correct. They pledge between $500 and $1000 to the clinic for 5 years after their graduation. Much does it take to run these clinics? In order to have all of the copperheads of care, all of the medication, mental health care, dental care, whatever it is, it comes out to about $1.5 million to $1.8 million per year. If you do all of this volunteer, there's a loss of continuity. There needs to be follow-up. We have a great deal of people that donate time. Do you see this being a way that the clinic is funded in the future? Absolutely, we write grants and donors help us as long as -- as well as getting donations. A student many years ago before Dylan who was a -- the founding student of this project come of the student said, Doctor Beck, once we are all out in practice, you won't have to worry anymore about finding the money for the free clinic. It was a beautiful thing. Now through Dylan and Tony and other students, this is becoming the truth. How much pressure has taken off of you? I think in the years to come there will be a sense of a certain relaxation, less fear that we won't be able to have enough funds to make everything happen. At the same time, we will be able to help serve on that needs -- serve unmet needs. For instance, last year we had a man who needed a prosthesis. We had a number of students and former students donate to help him get his prosthesis. These unmet needs, I think these kinds of funds will serve that very well. The students ask of others for a match. They ask faculty and people in the community and say we are doing this. Help us. That is beautiful as well. Has each successive medical school class made the same pledge? And more -- and more, in Tony's class I think it was 40 of the students who donated. The last couple of classes we have at 60. It is increasing. Anthony, are you confident that the medical students who have made these pledges warranties pledges when indeed they do become full-fledged doctors? Absolutely! It stems from the fact that this is not something that we are giving begrudgingly. We feel not only honored but we have so much gratitude for what the free clinic gave to us. This sort of donation is just a drop in the bucket. I can only speak for myself. I am committed to the free clinic in whatever capacity I can serve as long as I am a practicing physician. I know the people that were really intimately involved who were really shown kindness, mentorship and really got to experience those unique interactions that the free clinic provides, will do the same. Congratulations Doctor Beck, on me Ch'ing -- on reaching this milestone. I have been speaking with Doctor Beck who is part of the turn UCSD Student-Run Free Clinic project. I've also been speaking with Anthony collateral -- Anthony who is a former student.

The UC San Diego Student-Run Free Clinic Project has reached a financial milestone: Its medical students have pledged $1 million in donations to continue the clinic’s work.

The clinic’s students, who treat indigent patients across the city, started organizing the donations in 2011. No money has changed hands yet, but the students have promised to give between $500 and $1,000 a year for five years once they graduate and complete their residencies. The first class that made the pledge graduated last year and is expected to start giving in a few years. Some local donors and alumni have also pledged matching contributions.


The clinic’s annual budget is about $2 million, according to director and co-founder Dr. Ellen Beck, so the donations will not be able to fully fund the clinic. But Beck said the donations means she won’t have to be scared about balancing her budget.

“I’d be worried about money for the years to come and (students) would say, ‘Don’t worry. Once I have a salary, I’ll donate and you’ll never have to worry about money again,’” Beck said. “They take it to heart.”

Beck and Lt. Anthony Kuleto, a member of the clinic’s first pledge class and a resident pediatrician at Naval Medical Center San Diego, join KPBS Midday Edition on Thursday to discuss how the donations will impact the clinic’s work.