Students, faculty and staff celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Commitment to Underserved People (CUP) program on Thursday, Oct. 18, at 5 p.m. on the University of Arizona Health Sciences Plaza. (View photos from the event here.)
Housed in the UA College of Medicine – Tucson, CUP gives medical students the opportunity to provide free medical care and education to underserved people in Tucson and Southern Arizona. Through CUP, UA medical students work regularly with the uninsured, homeless, refugees, inmates and other marginalized populations.
“We started CUP because we really wanted to get involved with the community and have more exposure to real patients,” said Carlos Gonzales, MD, who helped found CUP when he was a medical student at the UA College of Medicine – Tucson.
Dr. Gonzales serves as the director of CUP, as well as assistant dean of curricular affairs and associate professor of family and community medicine.
Since its establishment 40 years ago, CUP has grown to 36 distinct programs and clinics that serve specific populations in Southern Arizona. Onsite clinics include the Shubitz Family Clinic, a weekly clinic providing primary care to uninsured patients; Tot Shots, where medical students provide free immunizations to low-income Tucson children; the Mind Clinic, a free mental health clinic dedicated to providing psychiatric services; and the Women’s Clinic, which provides free primary and preventative care to women and children. Medical students also provide a variety of services off campus, such as working with the homeless in downtown Tucson and pediatric patients at Saint Andrews Clinic in Nogales, Ariz.
CUP also includes educational programs such as JAWS (Juniors Active in Wheelchair Sports), in which UA medical students play sports with children with disabilities and encourage healthy living; and SHINE (Students Helping In-Need Elders), where students spend time with older adults and provide health education.
Each CUP program is entirely student-run and student-driven under the supervision of volunteer physicians. During their first year of medical school, students sign up to serve in the areas they are most interested in. If services for a particular population do not exist, students are encouraged to develop a new CUP program to meet the population’s needs.
Patients seen through CUP clinics often receive no other form of medical attention. That realization recently struck close to home for second-year UA medical student Kenia Lucey. Lucey volunteers in CUP’s Shubitz Family Clinic, which provides free family medicine care for the uninsured.
“I recently saw one woman who wasn’t feeling very well,” Lucey said. “We ended up diagnosing her with cancer and I couldn’t help but think that she may never had known she had cancer if she hadn’t had visited the clinic.”
In addition to serving the underserved, UA medical students gain valuable hands-on clinical exposure and learn how medical clinics operate through CUP. This includes mastering everything from patient intake forms to taking vitals and completing physicals. To help CUP succeed, students even must learn how to fundraise. CUP operates on a limited budget and medical students often must fundraise for basic medical supplies, medications and lab tests. Students raise money by holding bake sales and a yearly gala known as CUP and Gown.
“I am proud that CUP still exists and that our medical students are still so eager to serve and work hard to help others,” Dr. Gonzales said. “I am confident that the medical students we are training are going to become respectful and caring future physicians.”
During the Oct. 18 celebration, medical students showcased each of their CUP programs, as well as provide tours of their new clinic space inside of the UA College of Medicine – Tucson, 1501 N. Campbell Ave. The clinic space is shared with the UA Health Sciences Asthma and Airway Disease Research Center.
NOTE: CUP relies heavily on the volunteer services of local health-care providers. If you are interested in volunteering with CUP, please contact Hildi Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to support CUP monetarily, please visit http://www.bit.ly/SupportCUP.
About the UA College of Medicine – Tucson
The University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson is shaping the future of medicine through state-of-the-art medical education programs, groundbreaking research and advancements in patient care in Arizona and beyond. Founded in 1967, the college boasts more than 50 years of innovation, ranking among the top medical schools in the nation for research and primary care.
Through the university’s partnership with Banner Health, one of the largest nonprofit health care systems in the country, the college is leading the way in academic medicine. For more information, visit medicine.arizona.edu
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