Kasey Snow ’20

Driving down Lake Concord Road, a sign sticks out from the rest: encircled by a red heart, the words “Community Free Clinic” mark the only healthcare facility in Cabarrus County that never turns away patients due to financial instability. 

The Community Free Clinic, as it is formally known, brandishes the slogan “Health happens here” with great pride. 

While the clinic’s staff is primarily volunteer-based, its patients are treated by seasoned professionals and leading specialists in their fields. 

Along with a strong team of clinicians, the success of the clinic is predicated on the efficiency of the administrative team, which is where we, Davidson College students, come into play. 

For years, Davidson students, as  part of the Community Free Clinic Club, have traveled to the clinic to volunteer every week in an effort to help the community, while also being exposed to the ins and outs of healthcare. 

While volunteering, students may schedule appointments for patients in person and over the phone, or students may interview patients about their access to healthcare, social programs and other needs. These interactions allow students to see the bigger picture regarding needs within the community. 

While many of the student volunteers are pre-med and STEM majors seeking healthcare experience, we are not allowed to give medical care to patients unless clinically licensed to do so. Thus, most interaction between volunteers and patients is strictly public-health-oriented. 

With that being said, student volunteers gain valuable insight into how individuals who may fall below the poverty line cope with illness and disease maintenance. 

Some students find that their time volunteering at the clinic has redirected their passions from medicine to public health initiatives, while others feel called to be a medical provider after witnessing the transformation of individuals who came to the clinic with no hope into individuals who leave happy and healthy.

No matter how the clinic impacts Davidson student volunteers, we are all passionate about helping the clinic because we are able to directly help low﹣income members of the community. 

The clinic’s demographic statistics from 2018 reported identical representation of African American, Caucasian, and Hispanic patients, indicating that the clinic really does serve a wide variety of people in the community. 

When student volunteers were asked if they believe that the Community Free Clinic truly impacts the community, 100 percent reported that they do believe the clinic is a force for good. 

After walking halls lined with examination rooms filled with the latest equipment, seeing the smiles of the volunteer nurses speaking various languages to accommodate patient needs, and scanning the racks of prescriptions prepared by licensed pharmacists, I feel as though I am contributing to more than just a walk-in clinic. 

Every day, clinicians see patients who are in critical need of care but were discouraged from treatment because of their financial situation. 

When these patients find the Community Free Clinic, they feel like they have entered an oasis, a place where people genuinely care about them and support them. 

Along with excellent healthcare, the clinic provides non-perishable food items, toiletries, and clothing to its patients in need. These items are generously donated by members of greater Cabarrus County in order to foster a healthy and happy community.

However, treating patients has a cost. While the clinic could not function without non-monetary donations and volunteer service, money is a large part of healthcare and without it, the facility could no longer meet the current needs of the community. 

Medications, equipment, and outsourcing to specialists require financing to be able to subsidize the costs for patients. 

This is a great area of concern for the volunteers, as well as the staff, who understand the detriment any loss of funding would have on the community. 

While there is no perfect solution to this potential problem, volunteers and clinicians alike agree that bringing awareness to the clinic’s presence and mission to the greater community would not only increase funding, but more importantly, encourage other people with financial instability to get the medical care they need and deserve. 

It is not an individual whose money makes a difference but the larger healthcare corporations that will be the ones to encourage the future of the clinic. Atrium Health, Gateway Surgery Center, and Labcorp directly partner with the clinic. They encourage patients to use the clinic as a resource for postoperative care as well as for routine checkups and procedures.

The passion for people and medicine exuded by the clinic’s staff will stay with the student volunteers as they head into the next chapter of their own healthcare careers. 

Davidson student volunteers will remember, if nothing else, that they made a difference in how “Health happens here” in Cabarrus County, North Carolina. 

While my time at the clinic is far from over, I encourage my fellow Davidsonians to continue the legacy of support to our neighboring communities.

Kasey Snow ‘20 is a biology and English double major from Satellite Beach, Florida. Contact her at kasnow@davidson.edu.