Pritzker, Pathology partner to offer point-of-care tests at free clinics

by Molly Woulfe

Originally published in Medicine on the Midway, Spring 2018

A small office with a blue steel locker doubles as a clinical laboratory in the Bridgeport Free Clinic.

University of Chicago Medicine pathology resident Zhen Mei, MD, volunteer lab director for the student-run clinic, performs a quick inventory of the supplies for urine analysis, diabetes screening, rapid strep tests and more. MS1 Stephanie Bi sets up a pregnancy test on the desk, and a few minutes later, the medical student tells her patient the test is negative.

Most care centers provide simple, point-of-care tests, but a unique Pritzker School of Medicine-Department of Pathology partnership ensures that even finger pricks at three free clinics meet federal standards. The tests are provided at no cost to the patients.

Hannah Caldwell, MS1, is one of the co-directors at the student-run Washington Park Children’s Free Clinic, which provides free care for children, including immunizations. Photo by Jean Lachat.

Under the alliance, the pathology department donates lab tests and supplies to the Bridgeport clinic, which focuses on a mostly immigrant, Asian population; the Maria Shelter Clinic in Englewood, which treats women and children; and the Washington Park Children’s Free Clinic.

"A goal of the clinics is to provide the highest quality of care to the uninsured and underserved communities," said Wei Wei Lee, MD, MPH, director of wellness programs and faculty advisor to the clinics. "It is really important to provide the same care as we do insured patients."

Overseeing the program from the pathology perspective is Edward Leung, PhD, director of phlebotomy and pre-analytical services.

Pathology residents make one- to three-year commitments to work in the clinics, where they gain mentoring and management experience. Medical students learn about what tests to order and how to confer with the pathologist when interpreting results.

 “As a pathology resident, this has been a good experience in terms of leadership and management of a lab,” said Meredith Reynolds, MD, who helped students organize the lab testing at the Washington Park clinic.