The Augusta University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership’s Athens Free Clinic has been named the recipient of the 2023 Star of Community Achievement award from the Association of American Medical Colleges.
The award is a nationally recognized honor presented to a campus that has improved the health status of its community or achieved its social mission through collaboration with its community.
“I am personally humbled,” said Dr. Suzanne Lester, director of the Athens Free Clinic. “It is rewarding to see that the close collaboration amongst our patients, medical students, faculty and university and community partners has positively impacted the community. To receive recognition from the AAMC is incredibly meaningful.”
The Athens Free Clinic was established in 2018 and became an integral part of the Community and Population Health curriculum at the Medical Partnership the following year. The clinic’s mission is to bring primary care to the underserved and underinsured population of Athens-Clarke County.
The clinic is staffed by Medical Partnership students, faculty and staff, and travels to various sites and neighborhoods within Athens-Clarke County to bring health care directly to patients who may lack access to transportation.
Athens Free Clinic sites currently include Acceptance Recovery Center, Advantage Behavioral Health Systems, Bigger Vision Community Shelter, Cedar Shoals High School, Clarke Central High School, Clarke Middle Health Center, Covenant Presbyterian, Department of Public Health, Foothills Charter High School, Nuci’s Space, Pinewoods Community, and Potter’s House.
“It is such a privilege for our Athens Free Clinic/Community Population Health medical student and faculty teams to serve and learn in the Athens community,” said Lester. “The importance and value of educating medical students through service to others is one of our firmly held beliefs. In our experience, this form of service-learning is empowering for our medical students, patients and faculty alike. We are very thankful to all of those who have contributed to the success of this curriculum. We would not be here today without them.”
Since March 2018, the Athens Free Clinic has provided over $538,000 of care to more than 2,200 patients.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the clinic also conducted 3,500 COVID tests and administered 4,000 COVID vaccines.
“We are extremely honored that our Athens Free Clinic and Community and Population Health curriculum have been recognized with this prestigious award,” said Medical Partnership campus dean Dr. Shelley Nuss. “The clinic has had a tremendous impact in the Athens community by addressing health disparities and providing health care to those in need.”
The Athens Free Clinic was recognized for the award at the AAMC Annual Meeting in Seattle on Nov. 3. The clinic’s work will be presented at the AAMC’s Regional Medical Campuses Conference in Washington, D.C., in June 2024.