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UCLA Magazine Fall 2003
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Fall 2003
City Of Angels
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He has been coming to the clinic for about two years and regularly receives hygiene kits with vitamins, toothpaste, shampoo, soap and other personal-care supplies. (The clinic distributes about 50 kits each week.) This evening, Tran Janco is tending to his injured right foot. "You're going to have to try to stop running into walls and letting large women step on your toes,” she teases him. Then she asks, "Are you going to your meetings? No more falling off the wagon?” No, Paul says, smiling, no more falling off the wagon. "Now I've got everything going in my life the way I want it to be. I want to have a girlfriend, just a nice, decent girl — that's not asking too much — and to be able to give her nice things.” That's good, Tran Janco responds. "Like we've talked about before, keep working on getting yourself together.”

The medical care the students dispense is basic. There's only so much that can be done working with limited supplies and waning light on a desolate city street corner. After clients talk to an undergraduate caseworker like Tran Janco or Lozares, they are seen by a medical student to further discuss any health problems they are having. (The attending physician on site supervises the work of the medical students, as well as examines clients.) The ailments they most often confront are colds and the flu, muscle pain, sores, cuts and bruises, respiratory ills, foot fungus, high blood pressure and diabetes.

The doctors-in-training listen attentively to each person's complaint, ask probing questions, take careful notes in the record charts kept on each registered client. They lance fingers to check blood-sugar levels. They dispense what medications they can — Tylenol for aches and pains, Sudafed or Nyquil for a cold, beta blockers for hypertension, antibiotics or skin creams for infections, inhalers for asthma. When a concern is too serious to handle on the street, the students refer clients to hospitals or more comprehensive health-care clinics, sometimes giving them bus tokens to get there, and then hope that they'll actually go. (Often, they don't.) Continuity of care is important, even here, and if the client is back in the next week or so, the students will be certain to ask whether he or she followed through to seek help. On occasion if someone is seriously ill, the students will call a taxi and have him taken directly to an emergency room for immediate treatment.

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