Students Gain Valuable Experience at Medical Ministry

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Like the volunteers in ABCCM’s other ministries, those who serve at the Medical Ministry come from many walks of life. Many are church members who feel blessed to care for their neighbors in need. Others are retired community members who want to make a difference with their free time. Some are medical professionals who seek to address the need among the uninsured in Buncombe County, including the 30 percent of uninsured who received services at ABCCM in 2016.

One evening a month, the Medical Ministry is filled with a different population – students from A-B Tech’s nursing program, UNC’s School of Medicine, and UNC’s Eshelman School of Pharmacy at UNC-Asheville. ABCCM enjoys having these doctors, nurses and pharmacists in training on hand to learn new skills, share information and work with an underserved population.

“Something that students don’t get a lot of exposure to is interacting with other professionals,” said Nita Kirkpatrick, associate chair of nursing at A-B Tech. “We just don’t have that opportunity anywhere else until they’re out practicing and then it’s like, here, OK, everyone needs to learn to work together!  This gives them a chance to practice that. Here, they’re all students and they respect each other. Then they get out and practice, and see these folks again.”

Students work together as a team of three – one medical student, one nursing student, and one pharmacy student – to visit the patient together and evaluate needs, care and treatment. Each group of students has their preceptor on hand to supervise.

“We don’t typically work with other students and we barely interact with pharmacy and nursing students,” said third-year medical school student Parin Nanavati. “It feels really collaborative to ask a fellow student why one thing might work better than something else, going back to what we’ve learned in school and applying it.”

Third-year medical school student Molly Duffy said the experience of working with the Medical Ministry’s patients recalls, for her, the time she spent as an AmeriCorps member working in community health. Service at the Medical Ministry also drives home the importance of learning how to be resourceful when access to certain medications or diagnostic tests is limited.

“It’s really important to learn how to use the resources in our community for people who are uninsured or don’t have good insurance, which is learning that is so valuable for us,” she said.

Nita Kirkpatrick said sometimes, the young people aren’t only students at the Medical Ministry – they’re also patients.

“Many times the students utilize it themselves,” she said. “Oftentimes they’re under insured or don’t have insurance.”

ABCCM could not serve the population it does without volunteers such as these students, who bring enthusiasm and interest to their clinic night each month. The students know their volunteer service helps patients in the long term and not just as a temporary patch.

“We’re so grateful to have churches do so much wonderful volunteer work, and here at the Medical Ministry we’re also grateful to have these students, too,” said Maia Price, the Medical Ministry volunteer coordinator.

Do you have a team that would like to volunteer at the Medical Ministry? Contact Maia Price at or call (828) 398-6690 to learn about how volunteers provide crucial support for ABCCM’s services for the medically uninsured.