New mobile outreach clinic puts students and faculty in the driver's seat for clinical and research opportunities


The Medical Outreach Clinic of McLaren Macomb Hospital, first established in 1995, provides much-needed medical services to underserved and uninsured patients in the area.

Last month, with support from the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine and other partners, the “doctor’s office on wheels” got an upgrade in the form of a new, more spacious RV. Now 10 feet larger, the new mobile clinic has space for more treatment rooms as well as a counseling area.

The ability to serve more patients is undoubtedly good for the community. It’s also a welcome development for College of Osteopathic Medicine students and faculty, who can volunteer their time at the clinic. Not only does this work provide college faculty and emerging clinicians with the chance to give back, but it also presents opportunities to practice clinical skills and participate in community-based research.

Mitchell R. Bobcean, a third-year osteopathic medical student, served as the health fair coordinator for the Community Integrated Medicine Club at the college’s Macomb campus. Through this position, he facilitated student participation in the mobile clinic in Mount Clemens and had the opportunity to volunteer at the clinic himself, working alongside the clinic’s director, Dr. Richard Chalmers, residents and other third-and fourth-year students.

“Personally, the Mobile Outreach Clinic has shaped my education by giving me the perspective that I think is lost when reading textbooks and course packs,” Bobcean said. There’s no substitute for face-to-face time with patients, he added. “No matter how many pages you read or how many flashcards you flip through, those are not going to shape who you are as a physician or how patients will see you. Patients remember you by the compassion and determination you show when you are in the room with them.”

Brian Barnett, also a third-year student, agreed, noting that his volunteer experiences at the clinic were some of his earliest chances to practice his clinical skills.

“It was my first interaction with patients in a formal clinical setting where I could examine them, interview them and talk to them,” he said.

It was also one of the first times he felt like he was getting to do what he’s going to school to do: become a doctor. Learning to demonstrate trustworthiness so patients feel comfortable talking to you about their symptoms is something that needs to be learned on the job, Barnett added.

“The McLaren mobile clinic is really where I started to work on and develop that skill.”

Barnett also emphasized the team environment at the mobile medical clinic, and how valuable it was for him to get the chance to learn from residents, attendings, pharmacists, nurses and other professionals and students involved.

Volunteering at the mobile clinic made Bobcean more eager to learn about what he saw and helped him realize that while a disease might be a collection of symptoms to him, it could be a patient's whole life.

“That was what motivated me to persevere during pre-clerkship, and it's what still motivates me during rotations,” Bobcean said.

Additionally, the mobile clinic provides students and faculty with chances to conduct research on the cases they see, which is beneficial for all involved.

“The researchers learn more about a disease, and in turn, the community benefits because medical professionals know more about the disease process, how it presents in the population they work with and how to manage it best,” Bobcean said.

A recent example was a case report on granulomatous mastitis, which was spearheaded by Dr. Carolina Restini and two students, based on a patient they treated at the clinic.

Working with the mobile clinic also resonates with the college’s dedication to providing care for underserved and uninsured patients, something faculty and students alike are passionate about, Bobcean points out.

“The Medical Outreach Clinic is proof that quality medical care can be provided to the public if given the proper support and dedication from those who fund it and those who work it.”