April 25, 2016

Hari Conjeevaram, MD: Serving to learn

Student-Run Free Clinic fills a gap for uninsured patients

Hari Conjeevaram, medical director of the Student Run Free Clinic

Hari Conjeevaram, MD, is a Professor of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, and Medical Director of the U-M Student Run Free Clinic (UMSRFC).

The Clinic opened its doors in October 2012, and has served more than 600 uninsured patients with basic primary and preventative care services in that time. Here, Dr. Conjeevaram talks about the mission of UMSRFC and what he learns from students and patients every week.

“Caring for patients with empathy and educating patients about their illness and health is something I am passionate about, as much as I am in educating our students, residents and fellows about caring for others in the communities beyond their responsibility at the hospital.

“The UMSRFC was an idea that came from our medical students and I feel honored to be part of it. The students themselves select the directors and coordinators each year. Student volunteers from all years (M1-M4) are solicited to volunteer at the clinic each week.

“Our students have tremendous energy and enthusiasm to help others, and the clinic provides them a chance to get to learn more about opportunities to care for the uninsured in our communities and to know the administrative and business side of medicine. They also inspire each other, along with inspiring residents, fellows and faculty to do their best.

“The experience of running the clinic and interacting with the patients is especially important for the first- and second-year medical students. The UMSRFC is also unique in the country in that third- and fourth-year medical students participate in seeing and examining patients, help review and make recommendations on patient care under the supervision of the faculty physician, and mentor the first- and second-year students.

“Michigan provides not only an excellent medical education, but also focuses on caring for others in the communities and provides tremendous opportunities for students to volunteer in community-based settings.

“Even though I am a teacher, working with our students constantly teaches me to become a better person along with skills that include discipline, hard work and team spirit. That selfless attitude of everyone helping others in need resonates with my ideals of 'Love All and Serve All.'"