Leahy Clinic Plays Role in Area Health ‘Safety Net’

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Sandra Diaz, 33, typically enjoys vigorous good health. That's why the Scranton woman usually isn't overly concerned about her lack of health insurance. That changed recently when she started to feel tired and achy and was plagued with severe cold symptoms. "I was very sick," she says. "My friends told me about the clinic (The Edward R. Leahy Center Clinic for the Uninsured at The University of Scranton).” 

Ms. Diaz says she had two choices: She could wait until she felt sick enough to justify a trip to the Emergency Room, or she could seek immediate help from the Leahy Clinic. To her mind, it was a no-brainer. She went to the clinic where she was seen by a local doctor who volunteers his time. The visit cleared up her symptoms quickly. She says, “The clinic is a great place for people who have no insurance. It prevents ER visits. They even give you the medicine. Vaccines too. I took the medicine and started feeling better.”

Ms. Diaz says she has come to rely on the “kindness” of Andrea Mantione, MSN, CRNP, Leahy Center director and Maria Vital, bilingual administrative assistant. She feels comfortable calling them with health questions and says, “I will go back if I ever need help again. I will tell others about it, too.”

As Ms. Diaz's experience illustrates, the Leahy Clinic plays a significant role in patching the area’s health “safety net.” Uninsured patients are a growing problem -- more than 23,000 people are uninsured Lackawanna County. Ms. Diaz is one of the estimated 1,500 uninsured county residents who visited the clinic in 2011 for quality, “non-emergency” health care at no cost.

Moreover, Ms. Diaz and others who speak English as a second language are particularly grateful for the multilingual talents of Maria Vital, who can counsel them in their own language about the treatment they received and how to accurately follow the doctor's orders. Ms. Vital's language abilities are crucial. For example, consider that “once” means “11” in Spanish and imagine the disaster that might occur if a patient became confused between the two.

The Leahy Clinic depends upon its volunteers -- physicians from the Scranton area and University of Scranton students. Powered by volunteers, the clinic  provides health care, health teaching, counseling and physical therapy services. The students get the dual benefit of both learning and serving. In fact, the two become so intertwined that the Leahy experience often sparks a long-term commitment to service in students studying in health-care fields.

As Ms. Mantione explains, "We are so blessed to have the ability and opportunity to provide service to our neighbors and greatful for the support of volunteer healthcare professionals and organizations that provide that care with us. When clients like Sandra and her family utilize our services it is a transformational learning experience in service of faith and justice for our students and the entire University Community."

The volunteer experience produces the best kind of doctor, nurse or therapist – one with a deep-seated desire to serve. In this way, the clinic reflects the University’s commitment to “those who are poor and afflicted” and honors its Jesuit tradition of educating “men and women for and with others.”

In addition to being supported by The University of Scranton, the Leahy Clinic is funded through grants from: The Willary Foundation, Sanofi Pasteur, The Margaret Briggs Foundation, Covenant Presbyterian Church, Lackawanna County Medical Society Fundraising Event, Blue Ribbon Foundation of Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Community Medical Center, Gertrude Hawk Chocolates, Scranton Area Foundation, DPW Free Clinic Grant, and One Point, Inc.