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VCOM Receives $247k Grant to Expand Healthcare Services in Underserved County

The Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM) has been awarded a $247,940 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) for a project to expand primary care health services in Cherokee County and surrounding areas.

“The project is expected to provide health screening and treatment for over 600 persons within the next year, while offering clinical training opportunities for nearly 150 VCOM students,” said Petra Warren, MD, discipline chair of underserved and rural medicine at VCOM-Carolinas and project lead for the grant.

The mission of VCOM is to prepare globally-minded, community-focused physicians to meet the needs of rural and medically underserved populations and promote research to improve human health. In support of the college’s mission, VCOM students and faculty have participated in a free, weekly clinic at a local church in Cherokee County, an economically distressed county in Upstate South Carolina with limited healthcare options. In order to meet the high demand for access to healthcare while also providing hands-on training venues for VCOM students, the college plans to utilize the ARC grant to expand regularly schedule free clinic services and serve patients’ needs while providing clinical experience for students. Providing service in this underserved area of Cherokee County will also help build support for a permanent free clinic that would fill a gap in the local healthcare infrastructure.

With ARC assistance, VCOM and its partners will expand its free clinic at Iglesia de la Roca to once each week, and will also establish a new weekly clinic at the Gaffney Senior Center. Healthcare services will be provided by faculty physicians, medical fellows, and other VCOM clinical staff, with nutritional counseling and diabetic support coordinated by Julisu Dimucci-Ward, RD, the college’s dietician and diabetic educator. VCOM students will also volunteer their time at the clinics as a part of their academic training.

Negotiations are in progress for Limestone College to provide social work assistance, and for the Cherokee County YMCA to offer health maintenance strategies to patients at these clinics. Also, VCOM will purchase a van and trailer, and up-fit them to transport equipment and supplies to the sites in Cherokee County, about 20 miles from the college.

“This project will allow VCOM to purchase a van to facilitate the transportation of medical equipment and supplies to these clinics, as well as to other health fairs throughout the Upstate,” said Dr. Warren. “This van could also be used to transport supplies during emergencies when clinical services are needed.”

In addition to the ARC grant, a private philanthropic foundation in the Upstate has provided $15,000 in matching funds to purchase a disaster response trailer, which can be pulled by the medical van that VCOM will obtain.

For more information, contact Natalie Brown, Assistant Director of Communications, Marketing, Website and Publications, at nbrown [at], or at 864-327-9814