Med school grad gets experience at Community Care Clinic
By Susan Shinn
For the Salisbury Post
As long as Jessica Weddington can remember, she's had one plan.
"I just thought I was gonna go to N.C. State and be a doctor," she says.
And that's exactly what she's done. Almost.
Weddington, 27, finished medical school at Ross University in the Caribbean the end of July. Because of the timing, she'd have to wait a year to begin her residency. She decided to email the Community Care Clinic about volunteering. She eventually got in touch with Krista Woolly, who started as executive director in May.
Woolly couldn't believe her luck.
About the time Weddington was to start volunteering, Woolly had a job opening. When Weddington came into the office, Woolly told her, "I've got a great idea." When Weddington agreed, Woolly was thrilled.
"She's humble," Woolly says. "She's a Rowan County girl. There are no airs."
Weddington is a graduate of South Rowan High School. The daughter of Dwight Weddington and the late Cindy Weddington Stewart, she hass two younger brothers, Joseph, a student at State, and Travis, who's deployed with the Navy.
Until next summer, Weddington is medical assistant for the clinic, working 35 hours a week.
"The funny thing was," Woolly admits, "we didn't know what to put on her name tag.
"I've got my MD, but I can't do anything with it yet," Weddington explains.
The two decided the term "medical assistant" would be just right.
Woolly notes that certified medical assistants are becoming the norm in doctors' offices. They obtain two-year degrees at community colleges. Their positions are two-pronged: they take vital signs for patients during appointments, but also manage the myriad paperwork that goes along with a visit, plus calling for X-rays and setting up other appointments and referrals.
"It's total multitasking," Woolly says.
Something to which Weddington was never exposed in med school.
"You just write something down and you hand it to somebody and that's it," Weddington says of the role of a physician in the office setting. "This is good. This will make me a better doctor."
During day hours, Weddington works with Dr. David Smith, the clinic's medical director.
"David is so excited to have Jessica," Woolly says. "He loves to teach and he's very patient."
"Dr. Smith emphasizes that I need to think about diagnosis and treatment," Weddington says.
On a patient's initial visit, Weddington gets all the basic information and presents it to Smith, along with her opinion for diagnosis and treatment, which is called a "work up."
Weddington will also help the office shift to electronic records. Woolly says that free clinics have been given a free product to create EMRs or electronic medical records.
"That's the buzzword," she says. "Everybody's trying to go electronic. That's the piece that Jessica can use her volunteer time to help us do. Her experience in other parts of the country will totally help us."
At Ross, Weddington completed 90 weeks of clinical rotations all over the country - Atlanta, Illinois, Michigan, Maryland, Ohio. She plans to become an OB-GYN.
She began applying for residency in September. Although N.C. State was the only college to which she applied, she's applied for residency at nearly 100 hospitals.
"I didn't want to risk not applying somewhere," Weddington says.
Match Day will take place in mid-March, when hospitals will rank candidates and offer interviews.
Until then, she'll keep working at the Community Care Clinic. Thus far, she's enjoyed working with its patients, none of whom have insurance.
"Any appointment they can get, they're happy," Weddington says. She has treated chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure and diabetes. She has realized that most people have just lived with these conditions, versus people who have insurance going to the doctor every time they have a sniffle.
The clinic treats clients of Rowan Helping Ministries, people with jobs but who are uninsured and offers prescription assistance for patients who meet financial criteria. Woolly is proud of the fact that in 2011, the clinic saw 2,300 medical patients, 750 dental patients and filled 20,500 prescriptions, some $2.1 million in free medicine. She says that in 2012, the clinic has already met those numbers. She's always looking for new physicians to volunteer, especially those in specialty areas.
At a free clinic as compared to a hospital or outpatient clinic, Weddington says. "It's a whole different world. I've never seen or heard about any of this. These patients are normal people. They just can't afford things."
"She's gonna realize that people out there fall through the cracks," Woolly says. "This opens your eyes. It opened my eyes."
Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.