Students volunteer at the University of Iowa Mobile Clinic

Ashley Baek, Staff Writer

A University of Iowa volunteering program has allowed a handful of Grinnell College pre-health students to volunteer at various mobile clinics around Iowa City on weekends, adopting skills to help them along their career paths.

Morgan Kennedy, the clinic operations executive for the mobile clinic, wrote in an email to the S&B, “The University of Iowa Mobile Clinic was created over 20 years ago to address a need in our communities to provide healthcare and preventative medicine to our neighbors who were uninsured or underinsured.”

Kennedy added, “One of the most special things about Mobile Clinic is the interpersonal relationships between various colleges. Our volunteers span from undergraduates to medical and PA students. Each student volunteers in roles that are of interest to them and their future career goals.”

Interested students can sign up for volunteering shifts at one or two of twelve available clinics in Johnson County every weekend, according to Amelia Denek `24, the professional community volunteer coordinator in charge of the program this semester.

Securing transportation to Iowa City in collaboration with the Center for Careers, Life and Service (CLS) is a major aspect of Denek’s job.

Kennedy congratulated Denek’s work, saying, “Amelia Denek has been instrumental in trying to arrange carpools for these students to reduce these [transportation] barriers.”

Ahmad Ayyeh `25, one of the volunteers at the mobile clinics, said, “It’s still open to people who aren’t in the pre-med community. Say, for example, if someone was interested in just a lot of scribe work, they are able to just go and volunteer.” Medical scribes help transcribe patient information during clinical visits, in real-time, into electronic health records.

According to Ayyeh, different positions require different types of training. Some positions, like taking vitals, require in-person training that happens once a semester, while other positions, like scribe work, require online training.

Ayyeh, a student on the pre-health track, works as an Arabic translator and a scribe at the clinics. “I personally try to go every week or every other week, but I know some people go once a month,” he said.

“This [clinic] is meant to be like a clinic that’s totally free for people who are underrepresented,” Ayyeh said. “Whether or not you have insurance doesn’t really matter,” he added. 

The mobile clinic now serves 12 sites as well as a telemedicine branch. According to Kennedy, over 700 patients visited the clinic last year, with 66% reporting being uninsured, 41% identifying as minorities and 24% being rural Iowans. The clinic has also offered over 1,200 COVID vaccines since the start of the pandemic.

Ayyeh said he finds inspiration for this work from his past experiences. “I immigrated to the US from Jordan back in 2017. At the beginning, we didn’t have access to health insurance or anything, and I remember we had some sort of a similar clinic back in Chicago, where we moved to, and it was just awesome being able to get help that one day without paying hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars,” he said.

Ayyeh said he appreciates the chance to participate in the program that is one of a few opportunities available for pre-health Grinnell students to obtain valuable real-world experience at the undergraduate level. “I personally love this type of work, and I love being with the patients,” he said.

Kennedy wrote in an email to the S&B, “Our partnership with Grinnell College has been wonderful and has allowed many Grinnell students to have extremely impactful volunteer experiences.”

She added, “It really is a team sport utilizing everyone’s skills and interests.” 

Mary Jane Shroyer, director of the health professions community, emphasized what this opportunity means for Grinnell students interested in pre-health. “Health professions programs expect applicants to have some clinical exposure prior to applying and to demonstrate a commitment to serving their communities,” she explained.