Providing Health Care to Underserved Populations

As part of the real-world application of skills prior to graduation, University of Western States (UWS) student interns rotate throughout the Portland community to provide care for largely underserved and vulnerable populations.

“UWS has a rich history of active involvement in our communities, consistent with the university’s vision, mission and values,” said Joseph Pfeifer, DC, vice president of clinic affairs at UWS. “In the clinical realm, we have developed partnerships that provide health care to populations that would not otherwise have access to services they need.  These affiliations also provide important and diverse clinical experiences for our students as they develop into competent and caring health care providers. By maintaining these partnerships, we enhance the well-being of our communities while helping prepare our students to be successful as providers in the communities they will ultimately serve.”

UWS students and clinic staff work with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers, the Returning Veterans Project, De Paul Treatment Centers, Volunteers of America of Oregon (VOA), the Portland Rescue Mission, Outside In, Shepherd’s Door and more.

student volunteering
UWS alumna Catherine Kanda, DC, and Timothy Brinkman, sixth quarter chiropractic student volunteering in the kitchen at Shepherd’s Door in Portland.

“Each of these sites offers chiropractic interns the opportunity to work with populations who are generally underserved,” said Owen Lynch, DC, UWS clinician. “Working with other medical and service providers such as alcohol and drug counselors, social workers and more allows our students to gain a better understanding of what it takes to be a mindful, empathetic caregiver to those who need it most.”

The Outside In Clinic and Health Services department is a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) and a five-star Patient-Centered Primary Care Home (PCPCH) that serves vulnerable populations requiring medical services. The organization provides primary care, women’s health, complementary medical services, group health classes, transgender services and integrated behavioral health services to patients that fall below the federal poverty line. Patient ages range from adolescence to elderly, with a large percentage of patients being homeless or unstably housed.

“It is our organization’s policy to not prescribe narcotics and instead, integrate chiropractic and acupuncture modalities into our patient’s primary care,” said Timothie Rochon, RN, CNM, MSN, clinic and health services manager of Outside In. “Being able to offer these services to patients who often are unable to access such services creates improved health care to those who are often suffering the most.”

UWS chiropractic interns are empowered to form connections with the patients they treat and are reminded to always ask the question, “How can I make a difference?”

Brodie Hornstein, a 10th quarter UWS student who works in the Men’s Residential Center through the VOA,  said that the work he’s been able to do with the men in the program has restored his faith in the rehabilitation system.

Those receiving care at the Men’s Residential Center through the VOA are referred by the criminal justice system.

“Most of our patients have never seen a chiropractor, been adjusted or have received any nutritional advice,” Hornstein said. “It’s very rewarding to see what a simple adjustment does for their pain and well-being. The gratitude our patients show us interns is awesome and always appreciated. It’s inspiring to see how the work we do with these men empower them to overcome their pasts, go back into the community and become leaders and mentors to others struggling with addiction.”

The UWS community also helps local organizations with more than chiropractic care. Shepherd’s Door is a community of single women and women with children (ages 10 and under) who are a part of New Life Ministries at Portland Rescue Mission. As an organization, Shepherd’s Door offers residential recovery programs for addiction therapy and strives to provide ongoing support for career planning, job searches and integration into a healthy community.

“UWS has supported Shepherd’s Door in a variety of ways,” said Ashley Van Brunt, RN, BSN, PCCN, staff member at Shepherd’s Door. “From providing meals to our residents, giving educational lectures on health-related topics, to offering free chiropractic services to residents, all of these services have been invaluable. The services that UWS has provided serve to promote the holistic health of individuals in our program, as well as community health overall. Promoting health is a vital piece to our residents building life skills that will help them succeed in addiction recovery and beyond.”

Students find the experiences valuable and are happy to be able to help out the community they live in.

“The types of cases we see at organizations such as Outside In can be unique and it really pushes us to apply critical analysis of our treatment techniques,” said Melissa Sawatzky, 10th quarter DC student. “I believe that stepping out of the books and into the real world is a vital experience for any health care provider. I’m proud and hope that UWS continues to reach out for more opportunities to serve our surrounding communities.”