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This free healthcare clinic is staffed and run by UC Irvine students

In April 2014, a small group of UC Irvine undergraduates began working to open a free healthcare clinic for underserved patients that also would prepare the students for medical careers.

Eight months later, the An Lanh Clinic in Garden Grove became a reality.

About 40 UCI undergrads staff the clinic, according to Andy Nguyen, a senior who is the facility's student president. Physicians and other healthcare professionals, as well as medical students, also have volunteered their time.

In a little over a year, they have served more than 200 patients who were uninsured or could not afford other healthcare options. The average family income of the patients was $17,870 for a family of four, according to the clinic's demographic data.

When the facility opened, Tiffany Pham — now a senior at UCI — saw firsthand how it could make a difference.

"We had a patient who was walking to our building very slowly from the parking lot, and it took her 30 minutes to come inside," Pham said.

After examining her, the students and physicians found that she had rheumatoid arthritis in her knee.

She was prescribed medication and when she returned for a checkup a few weeks later, Pham saw her make the journey from the parking lot to the clinic in 10 minutes.

"I honestly think that's astounding," the pharmaceutical sciences student said. "We were able to do something to help her get better, and I feel really proud of what we did."

An Lanh's founders originally proposed their idea to a physician in Anaheim, who got them in touch with Lestonnac Free Clinics, which offers medical and dental care across Orange County.

Lestonnac allowed the students to occupy one of its satellite clinics in Garden Grove and provided them with medical equipment, such as test kits and devices to measure blood pressure and heart rate.

The students also needed to decide on a name for their medical haven.

By spring of 2015, the group settled on "An Lanh," meaning "peace" or "healing" in Vietnamese.

"We wanted to choose something that would cater to the Vietnamese population, knowing that a majority of the community in Garden Grove is Vietnamese," said Kristine Jermakian, a UCI senior.

While the students at An Lanh mostly consist of pharmaceutical sciences and biology majors, the facility also relies on students studying languages to act as Vietnamese and Spanish translators.

Currently, the clinic is recruiting students in informatics and computer science to develop an easier-to-navigate website.

"A clinic is not just science-based," Jermakian said. "We need people from all sorts of backgrounds."

Since opening day, the students have devoted their Saturdays, the only day the clinic is open, to An Lanh.

From 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., patients check in and are examined by students who record their symptoms and determine a possible treatment approach.

The students then confer with the on-site physicians, who join them in talking to the patients — either providing recommendations, prescribing medication or referring them to specialists as necessary.

"As future healthcare providers, it's important for us to understand the diagnosis and treatment of symptoms," Nguyen said. "We're all aware that there are people who don't have insurance who require medical care, which is why we try to foster a compassionate approach."

Patients visit for free, paying only the cost to attain their prescriptions or complete medical tests that require lab fees. The clinic does not make any money from patients, the students said.

alexandra.chan@latimes.com



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