Stephen Schmit '19
Dr. Volker Blankenstein Fellow, Family Medicine Center, South Bend
The Family Medicine Center is an out-patient clinic at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center that cares for a diverse low-income patient population. When COVID-19 was officially declared a pandemic a couple of weeks ago, our clinic descended into outright chaos, and we had to navigate some pretty significant uncertainty.
No one was quite sure how to screen patients for possible symptoms, when to utilize our limited test kits, how to best ration our personal protective equipment, and the list goes on. Despite the initial confusion, however, I was astounded by how quickly and efficiently our physicians, nurses, and managers came together to develop consolidated guidelines and new protocol.
We almost immediately organized a "drive-thru clinic," where we kept patients in their cars to test/screen for COVID-19, minimizing exposure risks. Additionally, the government has urged hospitals and out-patient clinics to cancel all non-essential patient visits and elective procedures. We responded to this mandate by transitioning the majority of our patient visits to telemedicine, setting up patients for virtual visits over video chat.
These significant changes were accompanied by a mountain of logistics, and we would not have been able to adapt so quickly without the concerted effort from all members of the healthcare team. We still must grapple with remarkable uncertainty, but this situation has given me a renewed appreciation for the importance of solidarity. It might sound corny by now, but we really are all in this together.
In the Family Medicine Center, I have a variety of roles. One of my primary responsibilities is to train and coordinate the 40 volunteers from Notre Dame who regularly help out in the clinic. I also work on several projects that are related to population health. For example, I keep a registry of the obstetric patients in our clinic to follow their prenatal care, and I've been doing some research on tobacco use and pregnancy outcomes. With any spare time, I quite simply help the clinic however I can (by rooming patients, taking vital signs, doing inventories, etc.).
As always, I'm so thankful for the club's support and for helping to make this fellowship possible!