Nightly News   |  November 14, 2010

Tufts students staff clinic for neighbors in need

Several dozen medical students are expanding their learning from the library to their community by offering health care to the underserved. NBC’s Peter Alexander reports.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

LESTER HOLT, anchor: Many a teacher will tell you that a real world education beats book learning hands down. And in the real world quality affordable health care is too often out of reach. You put those two facts together and you've got an opportunity for some Boston medical students who are making a difference. Here's NBC's Peter Alexander .

PETER ALEXANDER reporting: They look like real doctors, maybe a bit more fresh faced, but most doctors don't have to build their own offices from scratch every time they open their door. These are the next generation's MDs , mostly medical students from Tufts University , who each Tuesday night transform this church basement near Boston into a place of care for their neighbors in need.

Dr. GREG SAWIN (Tufts University): The American medical system's broken, unfortunately, and we have a lot of people that fall through the cracks.

ALEXANDER: Like nine-year-old Elizabeth Pierce , whose father lost his job and his insurance last year. So when she got sick her grandmother didn't know what to do.

Unidentified Woman #1: I panicked and I was going to take her to the hospital and then they charge you, and I'm like, you know...

ALEXANDER: Can't afford it?

Woman #1: Can't afford it.

Unidentified Man #1: Does it hurt when you swallow?

ALEXANDER: But at The Sharewood Project , run and funded entirely by students and supervised by physicians...

Unidentified Woman #2: Nice and wide.

ALEXANDER: is free, from general checkups to vaccines. The need for these free services is swelling. In 14 years the students of Sharewood have treated more than 2500 patients. Tonight alone they ran out of flu shots in the first two hours.

Mr. MATTHEW SHEPARD: I'm checking the fridge again.

ALEXANDER: Matthew Shepard 's been volunteering here since his second day of med school .

Mr. SHEPARD: He's infectious. Once you start coming, it's really hard not to come back. We find time because this is why we went to medical school .

Ms. CHRISTINA JOHNSON: You're going to be paired with Justin Chang .

ALEXANDER: Med student Christina Johnson says it's a symbiotic relationship...

Ms. JOHNSON: It's a way to give back and it's a way to learn.

ALEXANDER: ...getting on-the-job training and even passing along those lessons to undergrad students and peers.

Unidentified Man #2: All the way in the back, here.

Unidentified Woman #3: Oh, all the way at the back.

Man #2: Yeah.

ALEXANDER: Elizabeth went home with instructions to take it easy. No strep, just a sore throat.

Woman #1: This is great. This is great.

ALEXANDER: For her grandmother, relief. And for these students, a sense of purpose ... And still excited to be a doctor one day.

Ms. JOHNSON: Yes, I am. Yes, I am.

ALEXANDER: ...showing dedication to their patients even before earning their degree. Peter Alexander , NBC News, Malden, Massachusetts.