Medical student-run health clinics: important contributors to patient care and medical education

J Gen Intern Med. 2007 Mar;22(3):352-6. doi: 10.1007/s11606-006-0073-4.


Background: Despite the popularity of medical student-run health clinics among U.S. medical schools, there is no information about how many clinics exist, how many students volunteer there, or how many patients they see and what services they offer.

Objective: We describe, for the first time, the prevalence and operation of medical student-run health clinics nationwide.

Design and participants: A web-based survey was sent to all 124 Association of American Medical Colleges allopathic schools in the 50 states.

Results: Ninety-four schools responded (76%); 49 schools had at least 1 student-run clinic (52%). Fifty-nine student-run clinics provided detailed data on their operation. The average clinic had 16 student volunteers a week, and most incorporated preclinical students (56/59, 93%). Nationally, clinics reported more than 36,000 annual patient-physician visits, in addition to more non-visit encounters. Patients were predominantly minority: 31% Hispanic; 31% Black/African American; 25% White; 11% Asian; and 3% Native American or other. Most student-run health clinics had resources both to treat acute illness and also to manage chronic conditions. Clinics were most often funded by private grants (42/59, 71%); among 27 clinics disclosing finances, a median annual operating budget of $12,000 was reported.

Conclusions: Medical student-run health clinics offer myriad services to disadvantaged patients and are also a notable phenomenon in medical education. Wider considerations of community health and medical education should not neglect the local role of a student-run health clinic.

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Care Facilities*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / methods
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Patient Care* / methods
  • Students, Medical*