Mobile Clinic distributes COVID-19 vaccines to underserved communities

The University of Iowa Mobile Clinic typically sees more than a thousand patients each year at approximately 12 sites. That number has grown now that the clinic offers COVID-19 vaccinations.

Volunteers wait to register patients during a recent Mobile Clinic.

“Our Mobile Clinic is a collaborative effort with care providers and colleges at UI Health Care,” says Mobile Clinic Co-Director Denise Martinez, MD, associate dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the UI Carver College of Medicine. “The clinics are free to the community and provide free health care and basic services.”

According to the United States Census Bureau, more than 27 million Americans do not have access to health care. Thanks to volunteers, grants, and donations, the Mobile Clinic provides care to underserved populations in Iowa City and surrounding locations.

“We’re partnering with the Johnson County Department of Public Health (JCPH) to help distribute vaccines to the most underserved communities locally, who are statistically more likely to be affected by COVID-19,” says Martinez. “So far, we’ve been allocated and distributed a steady amount of the vaccines each week.”

Reaching the underserved

Andrea Arthofer, 2022 MD candidate, is the clinic operations executive for the Mobile Clinic. She and the team of volunteers work with JCPH to coordinate vaccination allocations.

Amber Williams, fourth-year pharmacy student, injects a COVID-19 vaccination during a recent UI Mobile Clinic.

“We plan accordingly where we can host clinics each week based on the doses we receive,” says Arthofer. “Our incredible team goes to these sites where they customize our general clinic flow.”

Arthofer says the ability to reach people who have no regular access to health care has been even more important throughout the pandemic.

“I believe access to health care is a human right and am therefore passionate about filling the holes in health care access left behind by the current health care system,” she says.

Providing community health access

Pharmacist Jeanine Abrons is co-director of the Mobile Clinic. Abrons, Martinez, and Dan Runde, MD, serve as the team of co-directors for the clinic.

“Part of our duty as health care providers is to make health care accessible to all,” says Abrons, PharmD, clinical associate professor in the College of Pharmacy. “We work together to enhance health access in the community. That has been particularly important with vaccines.”

Abrons says as people’s awareness of the Mobile Clinic expands, the team will continue building infrastructure, training, and partnerships.

“With the COVID vaccinations, we’ve all worked together to develop policies, procedures, additional resources, and have recruited additional health care providers to sites to collaborate with the team,” she says. “We’ve used our diverse skills to make this vaccine more accessible to the surrounding community.”