By John Pettit
Priscilla Farlow of Hamden suffered a serious fall that led to a facial injury. With no health insurance, she thought she had nowhere to turn.
“When you don’t have insurance and you don’t have money, it’s a tough position to be in,” she said.
“You figure, ‘There is nothing I can do about it. I’ll just let the injury go, and if it gets worse, it gets worse.’”
Luckily, Farlow was referred to Community Access Imaging, Quinnipiac’s free diagnostic imaging program.
“Quinnipiac took me, even when they knew I had nothing,” she said.
The program is the brainchild of Dr. Ramon Gonzalez, director of the radiologist assistant program at Quinnipiac. It is funded by the University and the Seedlings Foundation of Branford, Connecticut, which supports programs that tend to the physical and mental health of children and families and foster an educated and engaged citizenship.
Gonzalez and a dedicated team of students, faculty and staff from the School of Health Sciences’ sonography, radiologic sciences and physician assistant programs, along with students from the University’s Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine, offer free medical services including ultrasounds, CT scans, MRIs, X-rays and bone density tests.
About 400 patients from the Greater New Haven area have taken advantage of the program since its inception 1½ years ago. Diagnostic imaging is done on Fridays at the Center for Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences.
The team has diagnosed conditions such as cerebral aneurysm; lung, thyroid, ovarian, and renal tumors; and congenital, skeletal and neurological malformations.
“They come for all kinds of pathology — from head-to-toe,” said Gonzalez, adding that patients must be referred from the Fair Haven Community Health Center in New Haven or Project Access, a partnership of physicians, hospitals and community organizations that work together to provide donated specialty health care for low-income, uninsured individuals in the Greater New Haven area.
“Most of our patients are undocumented people with no insurance,” Gonzalez said. The program has a Spanish translator, and clients also are offered free services from the School of Law’s Legal Clinic. Gonzalez would like to add a social services component.
The program benefits students as well as patients. “What they have learned most is that these are real people,” he said.
“There is so much you can do with technology, but that’s just the smallest part and the easiest part. Interaction with the patients is the most important part. No matter what you do — whether you are a physician assistant student or medical student — if the patient doesn’t trust you or connect with you, it doesn’t matter what tests we do.”
Kathryn Scionti ’15, a diagnostic imaging major, said volunteering with the program has taught her not to take her healthcare for granted. “It’s nice to know you are giving back to the community,” Scionti said. “These people can’t just walk into the doctor’s office when they are sick. Most of the patients we see have problems because they’ve gone their whole life without getting medical care.”
Patricia Landino ’11 has a degree in diagnostic imaging and works doing CT scans at Yale-New Haven Hospital’s Saint Raphael Campus. She is enrolled in Quinnipiac’s radiologist assistant program and participates in the free diagnostic imaging program.
“We are the first step toward helping them,” Landino explained. “It’s a very rewarding experience to be able to contribute to their health care.”
Farlow is certainly appreciative. “There are a lot of people without insurance who are struggling,” she said. “Quinnipiac is doing a very important service. I’m so thankful, I could kiss all the doctors and nurses.”
John Pettit is Assistant Director of Public Relations at Quinnipiac University