The following story is taken from Columbus Monthly: “200 Columbus the Official Bicentennial Guide.”
The article was written by Brett Nuckles.
Learning to Lend a Hand
Amanda Harper was on duty as a pharmacy volunteer at the Columbus Free Clinic when a doctor burst in, asking if anyone spoke Spanish. A patient needed care, and the clinic’s only translator was occupied. Just back from studying abroad in Chile, Harper raised her hand. She was thrilled to help, though she longed to be the one in the white doctor’s coat-the person calling the shots at the Columbus Free Clinic.
Today, Harper helps run the clinic, where Columbus residents can see a doctor and receive medical care free of charge. A student in OSU’s medical scientist training program, she’s one of nine graduate students who make up the clinic’s steering committee.
The Columbus Free Clinic is a place where first-year med students can get their hands dirty. Harper recalls the nerve-racking experience of donning her white coat and stethoscope for the first time. Though a team of experienced doctors make the final call on patient diagnosis and treatment, the stakes for her are higher than ever before.
For Harper, volunteering at the clinic was more than a chance to diagnose illnesses. It was her first opportunity to experience the human side of medicine, working face-to-face with sick, worried patients. And they couldn’t be happier that she is there to listen. When one Hispanic patient got a new inhaler, an item he never could afford on his own, he was so grateful he gave her a kiss on the cheek and asked to bring his family in to meet her.
The clinic serves dozens of low-income and unemployed patients each week. But meeting people who are down on their luck and suffering critical health conditions only energizes Harper. She thinks back to her senior year of high school, living in the small town of Ironton, when a girl at her church was diagnosed with melanoma. Despite a poor prognosis, Harper watcher he friend survive and thrive thanks to a quick diagnosis and expert care. She felt inspired and soon applied to OSU’s biomedical science program.
Harper has a long road ahead before she can fulfill her dream of running her own private practice and researching cures for cancer. But she cherishes the lessons she has learned during her time at the clinic: Never forget the difficult times patients are going through, and always be eager to lend a helping hand.