October 23, 2017

UTRGV's School of Medicine’s mobile clinic traveled to Houston to help.

By Kyser Lough
Population Health Scholar
University of Texas System
Doctoral Student in Journalism
UT Austin Moody College of Communication


Shortly after Hurricane Harvey made landfall, Dr. Eron Manusov, Assistant Dean of Clinical Education at the UTRGV School of Medicine, got a call from a colleague at the United Health Foundation. The foundation, which had recently given the school a multimillionaire grant to better serve communities in the Valley, wanted to know if he’d be interested in sending UTRGV’s new mobile clinic—which the grant had helped pay for—five hours northeast to Houston to assist in relief efforts.

The next day, at 6:30 a.m., Manusov met with his team from the mobile clinic, which included two residents, a nurse, and a community health worker, to pack up and head out. They collected supplies donated by McAllen Medical Center, coordinated with two cars full of volunteers, and got on the road.  The task for the mobile clinic, which is normally used to provide medical care to under-served areas within the Rio Grande Valley, was to spend three days offering medical services to patients in need.

“Twenty hours after I got the call, we were there,” says Manusov, who is Chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the medical school. “Our van goes out every day and was already ready to go out to work, so we just had to load up and head out.”

The team spent their time at several sites in the Houston area, administering care to anyone who needed it. Manusov says the care ranged from treating injuries directly related to the flooding, to dealing with storm-related trauma and anxiety, to helping those with chronic diseases access their needed medication. The team also gave out many tetanus shots as a preventative measure. By the time they left, they had used all of their supplies.

Manusov and others in his team speak Spanish, which allowed them to serve more effectively in Houston’s Latino neighborhoods.

“The stories were heart-wrenching,” says Manusov. “One family lost everything in their house to six feet of flooding. The couple had two small kids who had to hold on to their mother while she swam to safety, and one passed out because he initially thought his father had died in the flood. Since then, the family had been living with different people every night as they tried to get back on their feet.”

At each site, the team set up and worked with existing aid groups who were handing out resources. As people waited in the long lines for supplies, Manusov and his team could identify and care for those in need of medical attention. This not only helped those people in need, but gave valuable training to Manusov’s team members on how to respond in a crisis situation.

“It was very rewarding for us as well,” says Manusov. “The patients we saw were extremely grateful and everything went very smoothly. We didn’t have to admit anyone for additional care. The team was very happy and excited about being able to be there to help.”