April 26, 2022 — The University of Florida College of Medicine’s Mobile Outreach Clinic is celebrating an important win. The clinic was recently named as a recipient of the Fund for Health Equity Award, a one-year, $250,000 grant from Direct Relief, a nonprofit humanitarian agency providing medical assistance and disaster relief in the United States and beyond. The impact of these grant funds will be felt by some of Alachua County’s most vulnerable and underserved residents and rural neighbors.
The Mobile Outreach Clinic’s mission is to improve access to primary care and reproductive health services for underserved people without health insurance. Currently, the clinic consists of one bus with two exam rooms, a diagnostics laboratory and a waiting area. The clinic is staffed by a registered nurse, who can conduct screenings and provide referrals and case management.
Speaking at a ribbon-cutting that unveiled a renovated bus in 2017, director Grant Harrell, M.D., discussed the Mobile Outreach Clinic’s impact in the Gainesville area.
“The folks we see are incredibly grateful for what we’re doing because they’re left out of the traditional health care system,” Harrell said. “Sometimes we’re their best option.”
Thanks to Direct Relief’s philanthropic support, that option will be available to many more underserved residents. In 2020, the Mobile Outreach Clinic treated just under 2,000 patients. With funds from the Direct Relief grant, an additional pre-owned mobile unit will be purchased and renovated, increasing the clinic’s case capacity by an additional 750 patients annually. The second mobile unit will also expand the clinic’s service footprint, allowing it to cover more rural areas outside of Gainesville and bring testing and treatment to residents who do not have access to transportation.
The clinic’s testing capabilities will also benefit from this funding, through the purchase of equipment such as a colposcope, which is used to conduct specialized testing on women who have received abnormal pap smear results.
“Currently, uninsured patients who have abnormal pap smears face logistical and financial hurdles for follow-up and treatment of their abnormal cells,” said Michelle Nall, M.P.H., ANP-BC, a nurse practitioner with the Mobile Outreach Clinic.
Nall added that one Mobile Outreach Clinic nurse practitioner, whose salary is partially covered by the Direct Relief grant, is currently being trained to use the colposcope, allowing patients to receive the service at no extra cost to the clinic. Additional staffing, also funded by the grant, will be essential as the clinic’s service area increases. Direct Relief funding will help cover salaries for a nurse practitioner, a clinic assistant, a driver and an administrative support position.
As part of the Mobile Outreach Clinic’s goal to provide reproductive health services in addition to its other primary care offerings, a portion of the grant has been allocated to expand the clinic’s offering of contraceptive devices and medications, including Paragard intrauterine devices and Depo-Provera contraceptive injections. These items are in high demand among the clinic’s patients, and the ability to keep an available inventory will have a significant impact on the populations it serves.
When asked what the future looks like for the Mobile Outreach Clinic, Nall shared her vision to reach and treat more people.
“This grant helps us elevate the types of services we are offering,” Nall said. “I hope we continue to collaborate with humanitarian organizations like Direct Relief to ensure all people have easy and affordable access to high-quality and respectful medical care.”