CARES Medical Clinic a win-win for medical students and community, thanks to volunteers and donors

Melissa Varner
November 15, 2023
Four MUSC medical students pose in front of sign for Saint Stephen Middle School. The students help provide community outreach.

When Noah Ashley was applying to medical schools, it was important to him to find one with a free clinic. One of the reasons he chose MUSC is because of the CARES (community aid, relief, education and support) Medical Clinic.

First- and second-year medical students run the clinic out of East Cooper Community Outreach in Mount Pleasant, with direction and medical supervision from volunteer licensed medical providers. Three times a week, they offer a variety of free health care services for adults who don’t have health insurance.

“We see an average of eight patients a night,” said Noah, director of operations for the clinic. “We offer basically everything that patient could need free of charge, including any labs that need to be drawn, X-rays, MRIs or CT scans.”

The medical clinic also supports two outreach programs. Once a month, a team of student volunteers visit St. Stephen to hold health screenings and medical appointments. They also help distribute produce to 200 households.

A medical student stands next to a van with the words CARES Clinic on the side. The van is used by the clinic for community outreach.
Noah stands next to the CARES vaccine van.

The CARES Medical Clinic also partners with the Charleston County School District to provide necessary vaccinations to students who need them. “That's my favorite part because I love working with kids,” Noah said. “I want to go into pediatrics one day.”

Because of the CARES Medical Clinic, Noah is getting hands-on training with patients – the kind of training most medical students must wait until their third year to experience. “I've been able to sharpen my clinical skills in a way that many of my classmates have not,” Noah explained.

Even more importantly, he says treating patients at the clinic keeps him connected to his “why.”

“In the first years of medical school, it’s easy to become disconnected from why you wanted to go to medical school,” he said. “You're in class or studying for eight hours a day. The clinic has really kept me tied into the Charleston community and why I wanted to go into medicine in the first place.”

In 2022, the CARES Medical Clinic provided 390 patients with health care services valued at $275,093. These services, along with the invaluable experience the clinic provides for College of Medicine students, is made possible by volunteers, grants and donations.

Noah wants donors to know gifts to the CARES Clinic have an almost infinite impact. “Every dollar donated to the CARES Medical Clinic is not only helping someone right now – it’s teaching a medical student who will go on to impact thousands of patients throughout their career.”