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Westminster Free Clinic: Accessible health services for the uninsured

Standing+behind+the+Westminister+Free+Clinic+%28WFC%29+booth+on+Jan.+28%2C+2024%2C+are+volunteers+of+all+ages%2C+who+attend+to+patients+throughout+the+day.+A+majority+of+the+volunteers+come+from+WFC%E2%80%99s+Teen+Healthcare+Internship+program%2C+where+they+learn+patient+care+and+medical+skills+while+also+giving+back+to+the+community.
Camilla Lewis
Standing behind the Westminister Free Clinic (WFC) booth on Jan. 28, 2024, are volunteers of all ages, who attend to patients throughout the day. A majority of the volunteers come from WFC’s Teen Healthcare Internship program, where they learn patient care and medical skills while also giving back to the community.
Sofia Patiño

Providing a welcoming atmosphere and accessible resources, the Westminster Free Clinic (WFC) is a nonprofit, private clinic based in Ventura County. WFC offers free support and assistance regarding physical and mental health for those in the community who have low incomes and are uninsured. The clinic takes place once a week at 5 p.m. in three separate locations: one in Oxnard, Calif. every Tuesday, one in Thousand Oaks, Calif. every Wednesday as well as one in Santa Paula, Calif. On a weekly basis, the clinic offers a first come, first serve system and usually takes in a total of 100 patients every week.

The clinic is run by dedicated volunteers of all ages, some with years of experience in their careers, and others who are taking their first steps in the medical field. Volunteers include doctors, pharmacists, nutritionists and more, as well as those who are part of the WFC’s Teen Healthcare Internship, which consists of high school and college students. Together, they work hard to serve the community as an affordable and accessible option for those who need it. 

To promote the well-being and health of members of the community, WFC supplies a plethora of opportunities including exercise classes, fruit and vegetable distribution, nutrition counseling and health education classes, as well as check-ups and consultations with medical professionals. The clinic also hosts specific events throughout the year, including a backpack distribution before the school year begins and a toy distribution during the holidays.

The Westminster Free Clinic (WFC) booth offers free blood pressure and sugar checks to people within the Ventura County community, while also advocating awareness about various health issues and serving as an information center. Their free clinics occur once a week in Oxnard, Thousand Oaks and Santa Paula, Calif. The booth is located at the Community Marketplace that happens every last Sunday of the month, at Oxnard College. (Camilla Lewis)

These services are completely free of charge and are focused on preventing medical issues that can hinder individuals from working, possibly leading to further economic plight. Executive Director Lisa Safaeinili, holding inspiration from her past experiences, shared her thoughts about this. “I know what it’s like to be uninsured and have … to get well and not be able to work because you’re hurting. I want to make sure other people have a chance to be well and care for their families and to earn money and pay their rent so they can be housed,” Safaeinili stated.    

According to The 2022-2023 Budget: Health Care Access and Affordability report, issued by the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), around 3.2 million people within California are uninsured. This in turn makes it difficult to find affordable healthcare, leading to detrimental impacts on physical and mental health which can negatively impact other areas of life. WFC stands to combat these potential issues and is held up by determined and passionate volunteers.   

While not all volunteers must have a specific skill set, many of the services offered to the public require medical experience to run them, one example being the physicians who conduct checkups and consultations. Family physician Timothy Horita shared his experience as a medical volunteer at WFC since early 2000, stating, “I’ve enjoyed it tremendously. I like that we have to rely on our clinical skills of being able to take a history and to do a thorough physical exam … most of the diagnoses we do here [are] with our brains and our mouths and our ears and our hands.”

Besides medical skills, a vital role in successfully building a stable connection between the volunteer and patient is trust, which WFC does by first strengthening the bonds between the volunteers themselves. “Our unity and our friendships allow us to communicate with the community in a deeper, profound way,” Volunteer Manuel Perez, the clinic’s pharmacy assistant stated.

One of the most fundamental aspects of WFC is its Teen Healthcare Internship program. Serving as a chance for teenagers in the community to volunteer with the clinic, the two-year internship allows for teens to work side-by-side with medical professionals as they gain both hard and soft skills. After an application process, students who are accepted into the program receive four to six months of training before being able to assist patients on their own. Including a variety of roles such as taking pulse, measuring respiration, taking temperature and more, the internship is a wonderful opportunity for teenagers with an interest in healthcare and serving the community.

What we do here at the clinic is lift people up and give them the chance to reach their dreams and be able to care for their families.

— Lisa Safaeinili

Rodrigo Silva, a Student Manager in the Teen Healthcare Internship program, has been with WFC ever since he learned about the program in a patient care class at his high school. “I do a bit of everything. I’ve taken out patients if they’ve needed lab work, I’ve helped manage patients with doctors, it really depends,” Silva shared. He further explained that student managers are the ones taking care of the rest of the students, in a sense. They have a variety of roles, including managing patient documents and assigning students to patients. Silva suggested the internship to anyone out there who is eligible, stating that “seeing the joy in their eyes gets you wanting to do more good for your community.”

Many more volunteer opportunities are open to those who are interested, including opportunities for students who have graduated from the Teen Healthcare Internship program. Physicians, nurses, dentists, pharmacists and more are all needed at the clinic. After graduating from the internship program and volunteering with WFC for three years, Perez now has a multitude of responsibilities as a pharmacy assistant. He carries out jobs such as helping set up, refilling prescriptions, informing patients on what prescriptions they need to take and helping to organize and store medications. “The community. The people around me. The students. Plus just seeing them [and] working with them is just … it’s amazing,” Perez expressed. 

For students at Foothill Technology High School (Foothill Tech) who are interested in a career within the medical field and care about giving back to the community, visit https://westminsterclinic.org/home/programs/teen-healthcare-internship/ for more information. 

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About the Contributors
Julia Brossia, Writer
Second-year writer, Swiftie and opossum lover.
Camilla Lewis, Assignment Editor
Avid ocean, orange juice and “Napoleon Dynamite” lover.
Sofia Patiño, Videographer
Second-year journalist and Frank Ocean enthusiast.

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