The Little Clinic That Could

Uninsured residents turn to alumna for free health care

By ARVIN TEMKAR, USF NEWS Posted Mon, 01/07/2019 - 11:22

Without health insurance, where do patients go for basic needs like blood tests, mammograms, and consultation for illnesses like asthma and diabetes?

In Sacramento, one place to turn to is Clara’s House. The tiny nonprofit clinic founded by Sr. Kathy Wood ’64 gives uninsured patients basic health care for free.

Wood, a nursing alumna, provides “comprehensive primary care” for patients, some who have not seen a medical professional in over a decade. Her clinic takes a different approach from typical clinics, she says. 

“Most people go to the doctor and they only see you for 15 minutes,’” says Wood, a nurse practitioner who is the main care provider in the clinic. “I see patients for one hour, and we do a full history and lay out all the issues.” 

If patients have serious problems, Clara’s House refers them to specialists who take on their cases for free. 

Hometown hero

Wood founded Clara’s House in 2010 after spending three decades as a nurse for community clinics in Los Angeles. She wanted to return to her hometown, Sacramento, and start her own enterprise. The clinic is named after a local nun who was Wood’s first-grade teacher.

Clara’s House is staffed by some 40 volunteers, ranging from retired doctors to college students who want experience before applying to nursing school. It receives much of its medical equipment through donations from local for-profit health care companies. 

The clinic has served more than 1,800 patients, and Wood has been honored with local “hero” awards from the Sacramento Business Journal and KFBK radio station. 

Inspiring the next generation

When he was growing up, Pedro Alvarez MSN ’18 and his family relied on free clinics for their health care. While a student at Sacramento State University, he started volunteering at Clara’s House as a way of giving back.

Though he was considering becoming a physician assistant, at Clara’s House he found that he loved how nurse practitioners like Wood get to spend so much time with patients. In December he completed his master's in nursing degree at USF’s Orange County Campus. 

“I chose USF because Sr. Kathy spoke so highly of the university and was a living example of the training USF provides to its students,” Alvarez says. “Working at Clara’s House, I witnessed first-hand the impact of a USF education.”

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