Emory Med Student, Ashley Rae Martinez on the extraordinary work of the Harriet Tubman Women’s Free Clinic

November 26, 2014

harriet tubman women's free clinic

1) Tell us a bit about yourself and your background

I attended undergrad at Williams College in Massachusetts where I majored in biology, psychology, and neuroscience. Following graduation I took a post-baccalaureate research fellowship at the National Institutes of Health where I worked for two years in the Epilepsy Section of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. I am currently a second year medical student at Emory University School of Medicine. During my first year of medical school, I was one of the two student coordinators of the Harriet Tubman Women’s Clinic; I now help to advance the clinic’s long term academic and community goals. I am most interested in research and clinical work that benefits underserved populations.

2) Could you tell us how the clinic got started?

The Harriet Tubman Women’s Free Clinic (HTWC) was started by two first-year Emory medical students nearly two-and-a-half years ago. Emory School of Medicine has a variety of student-run clinics that serve the community, but until the founding of the Harriet Tubman Clinic, none focused solely on the issues specific to women’s health. Through a partnership between Emory Healthcare and the Open Door Community, a Catholic Worker house that is committed to helping the underserved of Atlanta and addressing the social issues of the community, the Harriet Tubman Women’s Clinic was founded.

3) Which types of patients does the clinic serve and what services do you generally provide?

We operate out of a one-room clinic at the Open Door Community that sees women seeking free well-women physical exams, STI testing and management, birth control, pap smears, colposcopies, and basic health care needs. The patients we serve are a diverse group. They range from teenagers to elderly individuals. Several are homeless, and are all lacking health insurance. Many patients visit our clinic as a part of their prenatal care. Though the clinic was initially founded to run two Tuesday nights a month, we have recently been able to extend our clinics to every Tuesday evening. This allows us to better serve patients through appointments or walk-ins and by providing more continuous care for follow-ups.

4) Who keeps the clinic running?

The clinic would be unable to operate without the generosity of the many Emory and private practice physicians who volunteer their time to oversee the clinic during Tuesday evenings. Two first-year Emory medical students coordinate HTWC, recruiting physicians and other Emory students to volunteer at each clinic. These student coordinators also ensure that patients receive the follow-up care they need either with the women’s clinic or with other free or sliding-scale services in the Atlanta area.

5) What makes the clinic truly special to you?

The clinic is a phenomenal opportunity for students to serve their community while learning about the health and social issues facing the underserved women of Atlanta. Although volunteering at clinic is a tremendous educational opportunity for students, physicians, and patients, a major shortcoming of the clinic is our current inability to compile the knowledge gained from each individual clinic. Students learn immensely from each patient they help treat, but often, due to the variety of patients we serve, see only a fraction of the health and social issues affecting our patient population.   

3) How has/can Docphin help achieve some of the objectives of the clinic?

What the clinic needs is a forum where physicians and students can post and share articles germane to the health issues they have encountered and where physicians can alert student volunteers to current treatment advancements before or following clinics. Docphin can be used to compile articles across clinic dates, making them easily accessible to volunteer students and physicians who were not at a specific clinic date. Perhaps most importantly, the current findings in gynecology and primary care could be compiled and distilled into information to be distributed to patients who would like to know more about women’s health issues. We believe that Docphin is the ideal way for the Harriet Tubman Women’s Clinic to expand its academic impact and become better integrated with other medical clinics and with the Emory and Atlanta community.