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Wednesday, June 19

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Chicago Wed Apr 29 2009

UIC Students Continue Fight Against Clinic Closure

Last week, we posted on a rally that members of the University of Illinois at Chicago Healthcare Students Against Discrimination were holding to protest the university's decision to close The Center for Women and Families at Pilsen.

We checked in with Yalda Afshar, a fourth year medical student who helped organize the protest, to talk to her about the group's hopes and plans for the future.

"The events were incredible," said Afshar, a MD/PhD candidate in the Medical Scientist Training Program. "Both events were really well attended...[and] it was a very, very mixed group in terms of professional background, which brought a lot of power to it."

Afshar estimates that between 75 to 100 UIC students attended the rally, which was held in front of the Outpatient Care Clinic, along with 20 to 30 physicians and staff. About 150 adults and 50 children attended the vigil, which was held in front of the Center later in the evening on Thursday.

The group plans to hold meetings with more university officials, including one this week with the deans of the College of Medicine.

"We're definitely not stopping," Afshar said. "We have in a sense created a watch group. It's no longer just UIC students."

Afshar said one of the group's main goals is to remain vocal about healthcare disparities. A native of California, Afshar said UIC's urban mission attracted her to the school, and she hopes the university will uphold its mission by keeping the clinic open. But healthcare disparities, she said, "are very real here. It's something I've been learning a lot about."

"I love this urban mission that we're going to serve people that surround the campus," she said. "By creating this clinic, they did that. They gave back to the community around them. It was part of our training, this beautiful, dignified relationship. This dignity is being hampered."

Afshar asks people to consider this scenario: The Center for Women and Families at Pilsen makes up only about o.oo1 percent of the university's budget (or $200,000), and the savings associated with preventative care, such as diagnosing diabetes early on, are immeasurable.

"If they wait years and years and years, and show up at the ER, they [might] have to amputate something because they were never diagnosed with diabetes," Afshar said.

The clinic is scheduled to close June 30. Afshar notes, "We're going to continue to fight until then."

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