Faizal Malkana, ’14 is a pre-med, biology major at Elmhurst College. On Friday afternoons, he volunteers at the Norma Jean Sanders Free Clinic in Chicago. Below he shares a bit about his experience and how it has helped to shape his perspective of healthcare.
No drugs or money kept in box, blood and urine specimens only. This is the warning label that is taped onto the front of a metal lockbox that is hung outside the clinic’s gate at the end of the day. For many, this site is a haven for delivering healthcare and medicine to those who do not have other means in Chicago’s Southside neighborhoods. It is the Norma Jean Sanders Free Clinic a ministry of Kenwood United Church of Christ. Dr. David Stewart serves as the medical director and associate pastor providing basic healthcare and pastoral services to all who come, free of charge.
All of the healthcare professionals who provide care to the patients at this free clinic work on a volunteer basis. Throughout the year, a number of family care residents, nurse practitioners and medical students make their rotations through the clinic to practice their clinical skills and offer help on Friday afternoons to Dr. Stewart, the sole family care physician there. Each patient that walks into that clinic is not just evaluated in terms of their physical health, but also cared for in terms of their mental and spiritual well being. This extends certainly from Dr. Stewart’s pastoral training and faith tradition. One experience which stands out in my memory involved a patient who had disclosed to the doctor that her grandson had fallen victim to senseless street violence as a bystander. It was a readily noticeable observation that she was suffering more than just in the physical sense. Her eyes were distraught and her palms were peeling. She told the doctor she’d lately been keeping her mind busy by cleaning around the house more. Her physical exam revealed signs of bodily stress. After performing his exam, Dr. Stewart proceeded to close his file and offered the patient a word of prayer to ease her pain and grieving. It was clear she had a sense of resolve and hope as she left the room with her chin held high.
Having spent a year at this clinic, the experience has afforded me a window into the reality of some of Chicago’s impoverished communities. Meeting patient after patient has led me to the conclusion that these types of institutions are direly needed in our society for the good health of a community in order to advance socioeconomically. This insight is perhaps most prominently featured with the warning label posted on the metal box mentioned earlier: “No Drugs or Money Kept In Box, Blood and Urine Specimens Only.” The box is a constant reminder to me of the work that always needs to be done to secure the health and overall well-being of a community. Calling it a symbol may be a bit far-fetched and a bit less romantic than ideal, but it certainly serves as an indication of what it means to be a healthcare professional. It is a meaning that the people at the Norma Jean Sanders Free Clinic underscore in leading, empowering and changing lives through healthy minds and healthy bodies.
Norma Jean Sanders Free Clinic in Chicago, IL