Athens Free Clinic Receives 2023 Star of Community Achievement Award from AAMC

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The Augusta University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership’s Athens Free Clinic has been bestowed with the esteemed 2023 Star of Community Achievement award by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). This national recognition is presented to a campus that has demonstrated significant improvements in the health status of its community or achieved its social mission through collaborative efforts with the community.

Established in 2018 and integrated into the Community and Population Health curriculum at the Medical Partnership the following year, the Athens Free Clinic has a mission to provide primary care to the underserved and underinsured population of Athens-Clarke County. The clinic, staffed by Medical Partnership students, faculty, and staff, travels to various sites and neighborhoods within Athens-Clarke County, ensuring healthcare accessibility for patients who may face transportation challenges.

Dr. Suzanne Lester, director of the Athens Free Clinic, expressed humility upon receiving the award, emphasizing the positive impact of collaboration among patients, medical students, faculty, and university and community partners. She noted the meaningfulness of recognition from the AAMC.

The clinic’s sites include various locations such as Acceptance Recovery Center, Advantage Behavioral Health Systems, Bigger Vision Community Shelter, Cedar Shoals High School, Clarke Central High School, Clarke Middle Health Center, Covenant Presbyterian, Department of Public Health, Foothills Charter High School, Nuci’s Space, Pinewoods Community, and Potter’s House.

Since its inception in March 2018, the Athens Free Clinic has provided over $538,000 in care to more than 2,200 patients. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the clinic conducted 3,500 COVID tests and administered 4,000 COVID vaccines, showcasing its commitment to community health.

Dr. Shelley Nuss, the Medical Partnership campus dean, expressed deep gratitude for the recognition, highlighting the clinic’s tremendous impact in addressing health disparities and providing healthcare to those in need. The Athens Free Clinic was officially acknowledged for the award at the AAMC Annual Meeting in Seattle on Nov. 3, with plans to present its work at the AAMC’s Regional Medical Campuses Conference in Washington, D.C., in June 2024.