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March of Dimes

How the University of Arizona's Mobile Health Program takes the idea of "doctors making rounds" to a whole new level

Forty years ago, Dr. Augusto Ortiz, a member of the University of Arizona’s Department of Family and Community Medicine, had a radical idea: how can we provide mobile healthcare for people living in rural areas surrounding the University who, for one reason or another, weren’t able to get to a hospital or clinic? Dr. Ortiz began by providing these services using what he could fit in the trunk of his car and later out of a converted school bus, traveling up and down the state providing services. As the Mobile Health Program (MHP) continued to expand to meet demand in communities surrounding Tucson, it raised funds to purchase a “real” mobile clinic; the program has simply been rolling along and expanding every year since then.

For the last 15 years, the program has been formally housed under the auspices of the U of A College of Medicine’s Department of Family and Community Medicine. And today, the program is operating out of its new March of Dimes-provided mobile healthcare van.

“We have been operating out of a U of A-owned unit for about the last decade,” said Patrick Rivers, the Senior Program Coordinator of the Mobile Health Program. “This new unit will give us the chance to give our old unit a rest and some refurbishment while enabling us to provide the continuity of care our patients really need.”

The program now operates at eight different locations in Tucson, running clinics twice a month at each location. The program, a partnership between the University of Arizona’s Department of Family and Community Medicine and Banner Health Group, provides low-income patients with full-spectrum primary care, prenatal care to pregnant women, and oral health services for mom’s and babies.

The program sees approximately 1,500 patients a year, about 75% of whom are uninsured. About 85% of patients are Hispanic and over 90% identify as a minority ethnic group. The Mobile Health Program makes a tremendous impact in the community and is always looking for organizations interested in partnering or financially supporting it to ensure its long term sustainability. Thanks to their new March of Dimes healthcare van, the program is going to be able to continue to do all that, and more.

“We publish and try to keep to a regular schedule so people know where to find us,” said Patrick. “So word gets around and we get to see new patients, as well as doing follow-up on our existing patients. The March of Dimes has helped us carry on this tradition to serve people with the greatest need.”


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