Shade Tree Clinic launches new Diagnostic Ultrasound Clinic
Vanderbilt’s student-run free clinic for underserved and uninsured patients in Nashville extends opportunities for patient care and medical education through a new imaging program, which launched on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023.
By: Lexie Little
To start the new year, students working at Shade Tree Clinic, Vanderbilt’s student-run free clinic, initiated a new program to further extend hands-on care and learning opportunities. The Shade Tree Diagnostic Ultrasound Clinic launched with patients in mind, helping the underserved, underrepresented, underinsured, and uninsured populations of Nashville access necessary care.
Partnering with the Vanderbilt University Medical Center Department of Radiology, the Diagnostic Medical Sonography Program, Clinical Informatics, and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, students under faculty supervision offered diagnostic imaging and sonographic services to patients who might otherwise face language, transportation, and trust barriers in seeking care.
“We recognize that patients have many barriers to necessary imaging, including transportation, language, and familiarity. By creating this clinic, we overcome some of the barriers they face,” M4 and former Shade Tree Executive Director James Jordano said. “We can use our transportation and language resources to provide care in a space patients are familiar with and trust. We also will host this clinic at the same time as Shade Tree Early Pregnancy Program, so we can provide much needed sonographic services to pregnant patients in the community.”
Since 2004, Shade Tree Clinic has offered primary care for hundreds of patients in Middle Tennessee. Services range from education about diabetes, high blood pressure, and diet and exercise to specialty clinics in neurology, rheumatology, plastics and wound care, orthopaedics, gynecology, and more. Students working at Shade Tree coordinate care at multiple Vanderbilt specialty clinics, following up on lab and test results to ensure quality care. The Diagnostic Ultrasound Clinic increased that capacity for care, providing in-house services.
Dr. Robert Miller, Shade Tree Clinic Co-Medical Director, credited Jordano, diagnostic radiology resident Heather Cole, MD, and the VUMC Radiology Department for making the clinic possible.
“Creating a Shade Tree ultrasound clinic is another way that Vanderbilt medical students work hard to bring state of the art medical care to underserved patients. We have talked about this for years,” Miller said.
While Shade Tree patients receive quality care, students and trainees at Vanderbilt University and VUMC gain practical clinical experience. MD and nursing students at VU and allied health students and residents at VUMC learn to provide patient-centered care and build trust through intentional listening, education around social barriers to care, and one-on-one interactions with community members in need.
Trainees like Diagnostic Medical Sonography (DMS) student Bea Solorzano interacted with patients and interdisciplinary teams, bridging gaps between Vanderbilt and the community and students in different degree or certification programs.
“As a student in the Diagnostic Medical Sonography Program at VUMC, I am excited for the opportunity to be of service to my community while gaining an invaluable learning experience,” Solorzano said. “Seeing the dedication and willingness the staff has to help their patients inspires me to be the best health care provider I can be.”
DMS Program Director Jill Webb said program staff and students are excited about the opportunity to provide a medical service for patients while also creating an educational and exemplary experience. She noted while the clinic is a valuable service to patients, it equally serves as a valuable experience for students to see issues regarding access to care and identify means for contributing solutions. Dr. Lucy Spalluto, Vice Chair of Health Equity in the Vanderbilt Department of Radiology, echoed Webb’s sentiment, acknowledging the opportunity for faculty to likewise engage in meaningful community care beyond their services at VUMC.
Shade Tree Clinic combines efforts of multiple departments and individuals across VUSM, VU, and VUMC with support from community and institutional donations. Each year, student organizers host a Benefit Dinner and Silent Auction and Shade Tree Trot 5K to support the clinic and its outreach. Last year, the clinic raised more than $189,000 through these events. Donations from generous community supporters allow students and faculty to develop programs like the Diagnostic Ultrasound Clinic.
“Most of all, we have to thank the incredibly appreciated donors who made this possible,” Jordano said. “Donations help provide the best care to patients in need and let projects like this one become real. It just started with an idea and hope to make things better, and thanks to the donors, we were able to make it possible.”
Tickets for this year’s Shade Tree Benefit and Silent Auction featuring multi-Grammy Award winner Sheryl Crow are on sale now. The show starts at 7 p.m. in Langford Auditorium on Wednesday, Feb. 15. Those unable to attend in person may purchase a virtual ticket for the livestream.