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Clinic puts no price on healthcare

By Ying Liang
On April 22, 2014

With the help of Miami University students, the Oxford Free Clinic will host its inaugural fundraiser on Friday, May 2. The gala event, catered by Kona Bistro, will be at the Oxford Community Arts Center from 7 to 9 p.m., and will consist of live music, a silent auction and a raffle, with all proceeds going directly to the clinic.

The Oxford Free Clinic is a community collaboration that began in 2006 involving over 40 volunteers and serving around 400 people every year, according to executive director Marilyn Sasser.

Sasser said the clinic has no permanent address; it is set up in donated spaces during the first three Wednesdays of every year, from the McCullough-Hyde Medical Building to the First United Presbyterian Church.

The clinic treats many patients with chronic conditions such as hypertension and diabetes. The clinic is unique in that patients often have their treatments entirely paid for, or up to 90 percent covered. Sasser said money comes from the state, which has many requirements to ensure diagnoses and treatments are covered.

"The most difficult part of the job is that... there is a defined service area," Sasser said. "Sometimes, eligibility requirements aren't met. In certain cases, we can't refer them elsewhere-it's very difficult to turn them away. Healthcare shouldn't be a sacrifice."

Sasser, who has been with the clinic for two years, sets appointments, pays bills and fundraises for diagnostic testing, among other responsibilities. Since she began working, the clinic has paired with Prevent Blindness Ohio to offer free eye exams and glasses to residents who meet state requirements.

Sasser said there are still plenty of programs and expansions for the clinic in the future and they are looking to educate patients about chronic conditions. Money donated to the clinic helps cover medical costs and diagnoses for patients in need.

"I have a great deal of respect [for patients]," Sasser said. "They're not people who are hiding from society-they're just sick. Poverty is a full-time job. [It is] not an easy step to reach out and ask for help."

For students interested in helping the clinic, Blake Chaffee, a graduate student at Miami University who has been a volunteer for over a year and has recently become a board member, suggested asking around and contacting the Free Clinic for volunteering opportunities.

"One thing I've gotten an appreciation for [is] the clinic itself ... At first, you feel obligated to volunteer," Chaffee said. "But then you work there for a while and find a role; you meet a lot of people. It's rewarding, knowing that you're part of an organization that really serves the Oxford community."

As a volunteer, Chaffee said his responsibilities include checking patients in, filling out their flow charts, organizing paperwork and working to set up fundraising events for awareness.

"We're always looking for more people," Chaffee said. "We want students to be aware-right now, we're pretty small, and this is our first fundraising gala event. If word gets out, and the students and town [are] aware, it could help us financially and support [us] in the future."

Chaffee said he has met with a Miami marketing class to help advertise the gala. Janice Taylor, who teaches the class, originally stumbled upon the opportunity during winter break when a mutual friend connected her with a clinic board member. She has since assigned the inaugural fundraiser work for the clinic to groups in her consumer behavior marketing class.

"It's hard not to tell them 'that's good, that's bad', but students must learn for themselves," Taylor said. "I have to step back and meet with the groups, allow class time to meet and talk about it. [I avoid] a lot of hands on things-I ask them questions about what they're thinking, why they're thinking that, and so on."

Taylor's students have worked to market the fundraising event. She required three deliverables from each group: a mailing list for potential volunteers and donors, a functional website, and a presentation of ideas for the gala event.

"By and large Miami students are good at finding research," Taylor said. "[The project is] more hands-on right now."

Taylor said that she expects her marketing students to grow with this experience, just as the Oxford Free Clinic grows with their help. For more information about the inaugural fundraiser or the clinic, please visit

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