link to RWJMS home page
Urban Health Initiative
Banner Image Here

UHI History

The internal medicine department at Cooper Hospital used to run an evening clinic in which medical students were allowed to participate. This clinic met twice a month. Due to financial constraints, the clinic was unable continue and students were left without a place where they could gain more experience and provide care for their own patients.

In 2000, Dr. Jeffrey Brenner, a family physician at Cooper, began allowing students to see uninsured patients weekly at his own clinic. Over time, student interest piqued, and the desire for students to have their own clinic to treat the uninsured residents of Camden became a top priority. The LEAP academy became an natural selection for the students to have a clinic. It already housed a fully functioning clinic by day that was willing to keep their doors open for students to run a clinic one evening a week. In addition, there was also an existing patient population. The parents of many of the students that attend the LEAP Charter school were uninsured. The clinic decided to adopt a model of care, in which every medical student is assigned to a patient. This ensured that each patient would receive continuity of care and each student would feel a sense of responsibility for their patient. There was no limit to the number of students that could participate in the clinic.

Drs. Regina Gandica, Nick Avallone, and Anthony Mazzarelli, at the time a third year medical students, was integral in the development of what is now known as the HOP (Health Outreach Project) clinic. He went to the administrative officers of Cooper University Hospital and asked for their help and support in the clinic. The hospital agreed to cover labs and x-ray services for the HOP clinic’s patients. Over time, this agreement evolved into having a specialist in every field of medicine agreeable to seeing HOP patients. The agreement required that medical students attend all specialty visits and screen the patients for charity care, and the hospital would cover any expense beyond that.

At the same time, there were many community projects that were occuring among the student body. These programs were also petitioning Cooper hospital for help and support in their programs. In 2001, the clinic project and the other community service projects united into one umbrella organization, Urban Health Initiatives (UHI). Since the formation of the organization, the group has grown to include three student clinics and four community programs. UHI is well recognized by the hospital and receives support from many different departments and faculty in all of its programs. UHI provides attending physicians a place where they have minimal clinical responsibility and can really focus on teaching, whether it’s the medical students, or the many citizens of Camden that participate in all of our programs. At the same times, students gain the invaluable opportunity to provide healthcare to a population in need of our help, while at the same time they are able to enter the community, interact and educate every generation in Camden.