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UT Clinic a Boon for Travis County's Uninsured

The University of Texas has opened a health clinic for the uninsured in Travis County, generating a training ground for nursing students and replying to a growing demand in the community.

People's Community Clinic "is bursting at the seams, and they have to turn away lots of patients," said Dr. Lisa Doggett, clinic director and a former doctor at People's, Austin's largest freestanding clinic for the needy. "This will be good for People's and good for the community."

Most of the patients of the UT Family Wellness Center are referrals from nearby People. Patients can come to the clinic at 2901 N. Interstate 35 for the whole thing from a checkup to treatment for diabetes, and they pay on a sliding scale. They make appointments by calling 232-3900.

Run by UT's nursing school, the clinic opened in April but was slow to get off the ground as it quickly lost its director. After Doggett took over in July and UT classes started last month, patient loads have more than doubled, to about 70 a month, Doggett said.

In January, another big change is expected. UT is negotiating with the Austin/Travis County Community Health Centers to become a partner. If the Travis County Healthcare District board approves the partnership, the clinic would be able to treat more patients, including those on government-sponsored Medicare and Medicaid programs.

The partnership would include the nursing school's Children, Wellness Center in Del Valle, which has been open since 1991. David Vliet, CEO of the community health centers, said that if the partnerships approved, officials approximate that the two clinics could get up to 8,000 patient visits next year and more than 13,000 in 2009.

He said, "It gives us an opportunity to provide more primary care, and that's what we're here to do."

For UT, it is also a chance to give hands-on experience to students in nursing and in due course other disciplines such as social work and pharmacy, Doggett said.

She gave a tour of the three examining rooms at the new clinic to Rachel McGee, a 20-year-old junior in a pre-nursing program at UT.

Doggett showed McGee instruments used to check ears, eyes and noses and led her to the small room where Doggett uses a microscope to do patient lab work.

McGee said, "I think it's a great program. I get to see how a clinic is run and see what the rest of my life is going to be about."



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