Charitha Reddy
Charitha Reddy and other medical students consult about patient treatment at their Saturday morning free clinic in Tustin. Daniel A. Anderson / University Communications

Charitha Reddy, a second-year medical school student, is getting a crash course on what it’s like to be a doctor. And she loves every minute of it.

Reddy and her classmates – tomorrow’s doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals – spend Saturday mornings at the UC Irvine Outreach Clinic caring for people with very low incomes who do not qualify for government programs. The free clinic offers primary care, preventive medicine, laboratory testing, medication, and healthcare referral services.

“This is an amazing opportunity to learn and help care for the people who need it most,” Reddy says. “We’re learning what it means to be compassionate doctors and what it takes to provide proper care and referrals for the most needy patients and families.”

The students receive thorough training in clinic management and serve under the direction of UCI faculty physicians, led by medical director Dr. Emily Dow and Dr. Alberto Manetta, associate dean for diversity.

“By learning the importance of collaborating with other health professionals and community partners, our hope is that the students will continue to make positive contributions to underserved populations,” Dow says.

The UC Irvine Outreach Clinic is an extension of a 10-year student project called Clínica Cariño, a monthly clinic in partnership with Loaves and Fishes Soup Kitchen in Santa Ana. Financial and faculty support from the School of Medicine and private donors has allowed the students to expand services, offering the free clinic weekly. The UC Irvine Outreach Clinic eventually plans to add locations and days of operation and to offer mental health, dental care and optometry services.

“With so many uninsured patients and no systemic solutions in sight, it is important that we take individual responsibility for the health of our communities,” says second-year medical student Shannon Toohey. “By donating a little bit of time, we can make an enormous difference in the lives of others, which is a pretty small contribution for such a large outcome.”

The clinic is located at the Hurtt Family Health Clinic, which is part of the Orange County Rescue Mission’s Village of Hope at the former Marine Corps Air Station in Tustin. A grand opening is set for 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 25. An R.S.V.P. is required at