National University of Health Sciences’ long tradition of community service extends through several of its clinics. One university clinic in particular is now offering on-site medical exams and chiropractic primary care at area soup kitchens, as well as providing free or reduced cost health care to homeless clients of community social service agencies.
The NUHS Whole Health Center – Aurora is a full service chiropractic medical clinic in a unique community. Aurora is an outlying suburb of Chicago that has a large Hispanic population, a mix of new suburban homes and older industrial neighborhoods, and a multi-cultural community facing high rates of unemployment and mounting social pressures.
Nick Chancellor, DC, is an NUHS grad and supervising clinician for National’s Aurora clinic. His staff includes one receptionist and usually between two and seven chiropractic interns. Tuesdays and Fridays, Dr. Chancellor and his team of interns go to two different soup kitchens.
“We arrive prepared to administer care to our patients right there. We take medical histories, perform physical exams, and bring portable tables in case we need to perform any chiropractic adjustments. If there is anyone at the soup kitchen who we determine needs additional care, we send those patients back to our clinic. The care we provide at soup kitchens is free, and individuals who become patients of ours from the soup kitchens also receive free service at our clinic. They can usually get a bus pass from another social service agency to help with transportation to and from our center.”
The NUHS Aurora clinic also offers its medical services for clients of Carpenter’s Place, a life-counseling center that provides tools to rebuild lives of the near-homeless through holistic case management. In fact, NUHS is the initial medical contact for Carpenter’s Place clients with health needs. One referred patient reports, “I think that the clinic is great. I feel so much better after coming in. The staff is so helpful. I could not do this or afford treatment if it was not for this clinic.”
Another comprehensive social service agency in Aurora, Aunt Martha’s, manages cases for people whose lives are in transition due to various crises. Aunt Martha’s has a youth service as well as three medical clinics serving the Aurora community. What’s exciting to Dr. Chancellor is that the NUHS Clinic has recently made arrangements to co-manage patient cases with the medical team from Aunt Martha’s. “We’ve always been pro-active in integrative medicine and this is a unique opportunity to share our expertise with MDs as we work together on these cases.
The NUHS interns in Aurora also do quite a bit of outreach to other sections of the local community. “Saturdays we are out at races, lectures or at our local community college to present weekend seminars or volunteer for soccer tournaments,” says Dr. Chancellor.
“Our work with community agencies is a win-win situation for everyone involved,” he says. “Not only do we provide benefit to those who need care, but we reap a lot in return. Our interns have a chance to co-manage cases with MDs and can experience diagnosing and treating a wider range of conditions than you would typically find in a more affluent area. They also learn more about what it’s like to be in private practice, since our relatively smaller clinic has to market itself and be very active in outreach activities. Our clinic benefits by the opportunity of building ties within the community and raising our profile both as a clinic and as a university.”
How do the interns feel about the outreach-oriented training in the Aurora clinic? DC intern Tyra Horner says, “I’ve been to the soup kitchen three times now. I like the fact that we’re able to work with a population that otherwise is not getting any chiropractic care. My father is a minister, so I’ve worked with churches for quite some time. I could definitely see this as something that could be worked into a ministry opportunity.”
Intern Vicky Swenson says that the experience gives her unique opportunities to apply her training as a physician, “We see a variety of patients, and I’m improving my Spanish speaking skills. The most complex and interesting cases I’ve seen have all come from the soup kitchen. It’s a population that often doesn’t get their health issues treated, so you see people with multiple problems and we can help them to address all of them.”
“I think it also gives me a better sense of how to make a good impression in my community. I would feel comfortable approaching any church in my area and giving back or donating time. If I hadn’t been here I wouldn’t have known how to start.”
Perhaps the most rewarding result for Dr. Chancellor and his interns is when their care allows someone to move forward in rebuilding their lives. One patient from Carpenter’s Place says, “I had a tumor removed from my leg but the only place where I could afford rehab was all the way downtown in Chicago. Thanks to the NUHS clinic, I have been able to get the rehab I need right here, and am now back to working full-time.”