issue Community Health 2024

Critical Lifelines

By Sara Skoog
The ICC ophthalmology clinic welcomed patients in the fall of 2023.

鶹Ӱ’s Interprofessional Community Clinic (ICC) is expanding the services it offers its patients to include ophthalmology, dermatology, pain care and pelvic health — services that uninsured patients often have difficulty obtaining or face long waits to get an appointment.

Now entering its second decade of providing health care to some of Lake County’s most vulnerable residents, 鶹Ӱ’s ICC is showing no signs of slowing down. Established in 2013 for interprofessional teams of students and licensed clinicians to provide primary care, podiatry, behavioral health and physical therapy services to the uninsured, the ICC has added dermatology, ophthalmology and pelvic health clinics for its patients, with more specialty services planned for 2024. Caroline Madigan, CMS ’26, president of the Interprofessional Clinic Initiative, and ICC Medical Director Melissa Chen, MD, talked with Helix about these expanded services.

Helix: How was it decided which types of specialty clinics to add?

Ms. Madigan: A lot of these ideas came from ICC student volunteers themselves as they identified specific unmet needs among the patients they saw in the clinic. The idea for expanding services started several years ago, when some ICC students proposed that the clinic start offering diabetic eye screenings. A lot of ICC patients have diabetes, and that puts them at increased risk for diabetic retinopathy, a condition that can lead to vision loss.

Caroline Madigan, CMS ’26

We were very fortunate to partner with a local ophthalmologist, Lisa Thompson, MD, who is willing to not only do diabetic eye screenings, but all types of eye exams. She now holds a clinic one Wednesday evening a month at her ophthalmology clinic in Gurnee, Illinois, for our patients. Any ICC patient who expresses an interest in getting an appointment is put on our waiting list for our monthly clinic.

The next specialty clinic we launched was dermatology, which was again brought to our attention by a student. Medical student Keana Khodadad, CMS ’26, suggested the idea to ICC leadership in March 2023 and submitted a well researched, thoughtful proposal which made the case that there was in fact a great need for dermatology services.

Was there something in particular she was seeing among the ICC patient population that helped support the proposal to launch a dermatology clinic?

Some of our patients work outdoor jobs where they are in the sun a lot of the time. Many patients might not think of dermatology as an essential service, especially when it can be challenging just to get your primary care needs met.

CMS alum Cynthia Abban, MD, who has a local dermatology practice, agreed to be the supervising clinician for our dermatology clinic. We held our first derm clinic at the ICC on a Saturday morning in July 2023, and these will continue every other month. ICC patients can make an appointment at the derm clinic to get their skin issues cared for, with education, biopsies and basic therapeutic recommendations.

How are the specialty clinics incorporating the interprofessional nature of ICC’s Thursday night clinics?

Our pain care clinic, which launched in September 2023 and takes place once a month, is a great example of interprofessionalism in action. We have Martin Lanoff, MD, a CMS faculty member who is a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist, along with physical therapist and faculty advisor Sarah Haag, PT, DPT, working with the students to treat ICC patients experiencing some type of musculoskeletal pain.

The goal of this clinic is to give patients the opportunity to talk to a specialist about their pain concerns and be evaluated with a team approach. It really helps to have multiple perspectives weigh in on the treatment plan. And because we’re interprofessional, we can also bring in psychology and pharmacy and as a team work through the cause of each individual patient’s pain and figure out what we can do to help that patient today. There’s a sense of familiarity and a comfort level for patients that comes with not having to start over somewhere else.

That sense of trust and safety is important to maintain.

The sense of trust and safety that we maintain with our patients is at the forefront of all of our new services, especially for our new pelvic health clinic. This is another monthly Saturday clinic for our current ICC patients who might be in need of an annual gynecological exam or have other pelvic health-related concerns. We do refer patients to the county health department, but the wait list there can be very long. We figured if we could get someone their yearly Pap smear, for example, then that’s one less thing causing worry or stress for our patients.

We have about 100 patients that would fall within the range of meeting the guidelines for these types of services, from Pap smears to pelvic physical therapy. This is another clinic that really embodies our interprofessional, team-based approach. Our faculty advisors include Dr. Sarah Haag for pelvic physical therapy; Kristine Burgess, MS, PA-C, a physician assistant with specific training in gynecology; and Ligaya Marisigan, MD, an OB/GYN with decades of experience at John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital of Cook County.

Any other services that people may not know are offered through the ICC?

We have a partnership with PADS Lake County, which provides shelter and support for the houseless. Once a month, PADS provides transportation to bring some of their clients to the ICC. This has been really great, because these are patients who typically do not have access to even the bare minimum of healthcare service. Most of their encounters with health care have been in an emergency setting, so it’s great that PADS clients can come here and access a wealth of interprofessional services.

In addition to our clinical services, we also have a food pantry that we offer at the ICC. This is another student-driven initiative. We connected with the Northern Illinois Food Bank, and they agreed to provide us with donations. This is a “no questions asked” food pantry. Students and clinicians donate grocery bags so ICC patients can take what they need. And there’s definitely a need — we clear the shelves every time. It’s a way for us to provide some healthier food options, which is part of helping our patients with their overall health and wellness.

Sara Skoog is a staff writer with 鶹Ӱ’s Division of Marketing and Brand Management. In addition to writing for Helix and other university publications, she also produces Pulse, 鶹Ӱ’s monthly e-newsletter.