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India Clinic Partnership Marks 10 Years

February 12, 2020

This year marks the 10-year anniversary of the founding of the Koinonia Medical Clinic, a health care facility in Pune, India, where members of the Wegmans School of Pharmacy have served since its inception. The clinic was established in 2010 in partnership with the Koinonia Fellowship.

Students Sarah Roberts and Devin Donnelly, along with Dean Christine Birnie and Dr. Lisa Phillips, spent a week at the clinic in India.

The clinic, which is staffed by a physician, is open year-round. Since its inception, dozens of faculty and students have traveled to the clinic to provide health care services to residents in Pune, and with financial support from the J. Homer Butler Foundation, the College has purchased more than $30,000 in medication, supplies, and equipment for the clinic. The Foundation has given the College five grants for the India trip, and helped fund the purchase of an electrocardiogram (EKG) machine, dental equipment, an autoclave, audiology equipment, medication, and supplies for the clinic.

Each January, a small group of faculty and students from the College, joined by other health care professionals from the Rochester community, and staff from Koinonia, run a weeklong medical camp at the clinic. On average, more than 1,000 patients come through the camp, where they can receive treatment for acute conditions, such as infections, pain, cough and cold, as well as chronic disease management such as hypertension and diabetes. They can also receive reading glasses, dental care, blood pressure and diabetes screenings, and hearing screenings, among a host of other services.

“The clinic and annual medical camp each January offer invaluable training for our students,” said Dr. Christine Birnie, dean of the Wegmans School of Pharmacy.  “The trips provide students with excellent clinical experience in a diverse setting, enabling them to develop valuable skills that are directly transferrable to their pharmacy communities in upstate New York.”

A student from the School of Pharmacy talks with a patient at the clinic.

While the mission trip has often served as an Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience (APPE), or clinical rotation, this year, third-year students were able to travel for the first time. P3s Sarah Robarts and Devin Donnelly, along with Birnie and Dr. Lisa Phillips, spent a week at the clinic. The close, one-on-one patient interaction provided Robarts and Donnelly with the opportunity to serve as professional pharmacists and work as a member of a health care team.

Robarts called the trip inspiring.

“The knowledge, experience, and overall feeling you get from volunteering and helping others stays with you long after you return home,” she said. “What you obtain from these experiences is something hard to put into words, different for everyone present, and something that you could never be taught in the classroom.”

While working at the clinic, Robarts and Donnelly rotated through stations, and had the opportunity to see all aspects of the clinic, including the triage station, blood pressure and diabetes screenings, physician visits, dental hygiene, health education, and the pharmacy. The Fisher students were working alongside Indian pharmacy students who had just begun their own Pharm.D. program.

“I was able to put into practice all the knowledge I had learned during school with medication verification, dose adjustments, interactions, and patient counseling,” Robarts explained. “I was also able to incorporate some aspects just as critical, including empathy, compassion, and human connection.”

The trip to India was Robarts’ fourth mission trip with the School of Pharmacy. While each experience is different, she said they are equally unforgettable.

“As a student you go on these trips thinking that you are one person, a student still learning, with very little experience. How much impact could we really make?” she said. “It is not until you get there and work with everyone else, communicating and living with the locals; you realize much how they value your presence and efforts. You form a bond with people you help.”