Students play a pivotal role in Clemson’s rural health care initiative
Clemson Rural Health (CRH) continues to expand its reach throughout South Carolina, and our students play a vital role in its success. In FY 2022, Clemson Rural Health served 6,927 patients in 30 counties, and student volunteer Hailey Britt was the first point of contact for many participants.
Future doctors serve the state as volunteers
An aspiring physician in the accelerated B.S. to M.S. in applied health research and evaluation program, Hailey was faced with unique challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. She needed to gain experience caring for patients and complete required volunteer hours to prepare for medical school applications, but most clinics were shut down or solely providing telehealth appointments. Then she learned that Clemson’s mobile health clinics were providing care to rural populations in the midst of the pandemic. She applied to serve as a volunteer with the mobile clinics, and her journey to provide care where it’s needed most began.
Mobile health clinics fight hepatitis C in at-risk communities
On the mobile health clinics, Hailey assisted with varying health care services, most often hepatitis C prevention and screening. She was trained to prick fingers, collect blood samples and test the blood for the virus. She conducted screenings in methadone clinics, at the outer reaches of Oconee County, in harvest food banks and in locations inside Greenville County where populations at higher risk of hepatitis C exposure reside.
“I got to meet patients, put faces to numbers and educate them on the importance of getting screened for hepatitis C. And let them know that if they were to test positive, our programming would allow them to be treated free of cost,” Hailey says.
Supporting WHO goals with innovative approaches in South Carolina
Hailey’s experience was part of Clemson Rural Health’s innovative approach to supporting the World Health Organization’s HCV elimination goals. Through the existing mobile health unit framework, in FY 2022, 15 community sites were visited in areas with increased risk for HCV and its comorbidities, 398 individuals were screened with results provided in 30 minutes, and 81 patients with HCV were identified. Fifty-two are on the path to full recovery.
Rural Health creates undergraduate research opportunities
Volunteering on the mobile health clinic opened Hailey’s eyes to a type of academic research that bridges the gap between scientific discovery and the people who need breakthroughs most urgently.
Partnering with the CDC to reduce obesity
As an undergraduate, Hailey worked with the Department of Public Health Science on the Center for Disease Control (CDC) High Obesity Prevention (HOP) project.
Specific counties in South Carolina are designated as rural with extremely high rates of obesity. Hailey and her team examined food insecurity in those counties and looked at general outcomes in the community, such as how long individuals resided in one place and how connected they were to their community. She conducted in-person surveys to ask South Carolinians how they could best be served and created direct connections between the people experiencing systemic challenges and the help they need to live healthier, happier lives.
Rural Health graduate research expands service opportunities
Hailey’s experiences with community-based research and rural health care inspired her to pursue a master’s degree in applied health research and evaluation before attending medical school. She currently serves Clemson faculty, staff and students at the Joseph F. Sullivan Center on campus and builds crucial reports for rural health care collaborators.
Health care for the campus community
At the Sullivan Center, Hailey assists with patient intake, takes vital signs, screens pregnancy tests and helps with varying women’s health visits. She is the smiling face who welcomes new and returning patients to the center, making sure everyone knows they are in a safe and supportive environment.
Data that tells a story
The second portion of Hailey’s graduate rural health care research lives in spreadsheets with significant implications for our state. She sifts through electronic medical health care records, conducts manual chart reviews, and pulls all the information required to build stewardship reports for the rural health projects funded by outside organizations. After spending time with the patients whose charts she reviews and reports on, Hailey says this position is a perfect fit.
“These aren’t just numbers for me. I’ve met these people and had the opportunity to see what this treatment was like for them and how their life was impacted because it worked. It might just look like a spreadsheet of numbers to somebody else, but for me, those are real people,” she says. “I love that I’ve had this dual end where I’ve been able to see patients in practice and get the satisfaction of saying, ‘These are all the people that we help, and I remember their stories. I remember their faces.'”
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