Starting this summer, the UNACARE Mobile Clinic will take health care directly to patients in the Midtown area two days a week. A nurse practitioner will see patients in the van’s exam room, while another professional will register patients in the front “reception” area. Image: UMMC

Special to Find It In Fondren™ (UMMC)

The University of Mississippi School of Nursing unveiled the new UNACARE Mobile Clinic on Friday as part of the School of Nursing Honors Day at the Jackson Medical Mall. UMMC officials, alumni, students and donors were in attendance for the official ribbon-cutting.

Starting this summer, the UNACARE Mobile Clinic will take health care directly to patients in the Midtown area two days a week. A nurse practitioner will see patients in the van’s exam room, while another professional will register patients in the front “reception” area.

The School of Nursing has run the UNACARE Health Clinic in Midtown for almost 20 years. When they learned that lack of transportation was hindering many in Midtown from getting to the clinic, the idea for the new vehicle was born.

“We looked at the no-show rate and other factors and realized that a large number of people in the area had no transportation,” said Dr. Janet Harris, associate dean of practice and community engagement in the School of Nursing. “We realized we needed to take health care to people in the community.”

The van is a fully equipped clinic on wheels. Harris said the van was built specifically for UMMC to the exact details that the School of Nursing and a nurse practitioner requested, down to the colors and even the flooring.

“It’s amazing how big it is inside. The one word I’ve heard from everyone who has been on the van has been, ‘wow,’” said Harris.

A two-person team will take the clinic to the Midtown community, with plans to expand services as the need is identified. School of Nursing students will also have the opportunity to work with the mobile clinic.

“Our first goal is to serve the Midtown area; second is to serve Head Start by providing early prescreening diagnostic tests as needed throughout the community and spread from there,” said Harris.

Dr. Kristi Hendrix, director of Midtown Partners and a member of the van’s advisory board, is also excited about what the van will bring to the community.  “The mobile unit is an exciting feature added to the health outreach component. It will provide additional opportunities for some of our most vulnerable populations to not only seek care for illnesses but also to promote overall wellness care.”

She is hopeful that the mobile clinic will make routine visits to some of their ongoing programs, specifically those for senior citizens.

With the idea for the van in place, the next step was funding. Several School of Nursing alumni and community partners made the van possible.

“Our alumni and community partners are some of the most generous I’ve ever seen. Once they see the situation in underserved areas, they come to the table with solutions really quickly,” said Dr. Kim Hoover, dean of the School of Nursing.

Bobbie Ward, UMMC alumna and former faculty member, made a gift in honor of her parents, Elva and Wallace Gooch. School of Nursing alumna Patricia Dyre Kimble and former faculty and alumna Dr. Rene Marie Reeb are the other donors who help put the van into action.

Mississippi Regions made the largest contribution to the $144,000 van after learning of the community’s need.

“When the Medical Center presented this idea, we thought it was a great opportunity to give back to the community, especially after we were presented with the facts that people lacked transportation,” said Candie Simmons, senior vice president and Mississippi regional marketing director for Regions.

All donors are listed prominently inside the van, and both UMMC and Regions logos are on the outer sides as well. UMMC and Regions are excited about having this additional presence in the Midtown community.

“Through the UNACARE Mobile Clinic, we will be able to reach those people that aren’t being reached by anyone else,” said Harris.

Hendrix agrees. The real “value add” will be the message that is sent not only to the Midtown residents but also to the greater Jackson area that Midtown and UMMC are serious about investing in and promoting healthy lifestyles and understand the need for an “on the ground” effort to do so, she said.