On Monday morning, Superior HealthPlan awarded a $2,000 grant to the Foster School of Medicine‘s to provide health care services – including supplies and patient education materials – for underserved residents in the rural area of Sparks and neighboring colonias.
The grant will help provide free primary and preventive health care and education, including COVID-19 safety precautions, at the clinic and through the university‘s Care Van. The Care Van is a mobile health unit used by the clinic and other TTUHSC El Paso departments to provide health screening and education in rural areas of El Paso and West Texas.
The MSRC primarily serves underinsured and uninsured residents of Sparks, a community of about 7,000 in far east El Paso County.
Medical students operate the clinic in the Socorro Ramirez Community Center in Sparks twice a month, providing care for patients of all ages. Led by faculty physician volunteers, students conduct blood pressure, glucose, and lipids checks; screen patients for obesity; conduct Pap tests for cervical cancer and perform mammograms for breast cancer.
“I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Superior HealthPlan for their generous gift,” said Maureen Francis, M.D., FACP, assistant dean for medical education at the Foster School of Medicine. “This profoundly impacts the health of our community by making it possible to provide patient education and health screenings at no cost to patients who could not otherwise afford the services.”
Since the MSRC opened its doors in fall 2013, more than 1,465 patients have received care. Students manage all clinic operations, from triage to patient care and discharge, under the direct supervision of volunteer physicians. This also serves as an opportunity for students to practice their Spanish language skills, while developing a relationship with the community and providing invaluable services to those who need them most.
The Caring Foundation of Texas, sponsored by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, donated the Care Van to TTUHSC El Paso in 2019 and pays all costs associated with its use, including insurance, maintenance, tolls and gas.
TTUHSC El Paso‘s Care Van delivers quality health care while promoting the university’s mission of improving the lives of people in our community by focusing on the unique health care needs of the border population through education, research and patient care.
Liliana Bonilla, a fourth-year medical student at the Foster School of Medicine, has been involved with the MSRC since 2017, and is currently the director of community outreach for the MSRC Care Van. Her overall goal in pursuing a career in medicine is not only to help the well-being of people, but also to help the community.
“These experiences have taught me that even though a physician can get the diagnosis correct and set a treatment plan, it has no value if the patient is unable to complete the plan,” Bonilla said. “My experience with the MSRC and the MSRC Care Van has helped me truly understand barriers to health care. Most importantly, finding ways to overcome them. My personal connection to underserved communities has driven my passion throughout my academic pursuits and led me to volunteer in underserved communities in El Paso.”
Bonilla has been part of the leadership team for the MSRC and helped implement plans for the MSRC Care Van. She said some of her best memories in medical school are thanks to these two programs.
“I want to thank all the supporters and donors of the MSRC and MSRC Care Van,” Bonilla said. “We‘re out there in the community, but we wouldn‘t be able to do what we do if it wasn‘t for our donors. I‘m very thankful to each and every one of them.”
The mobile care unit has been used for adult screenings, vaccines and mammogram drives in El Paso County.
Superior HealthPlan‘s grant program provides grants to participating Superior providers and community organizations focused on promoting the health and well-being of their communities. , which started in El Paso in 1999, is a managed health care company that provides health care in 254 Texas counties.