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Center a dream come true for MUSC neurologists
by Helen Adams | MUSC News Center | July 21, 2014
|Roxanne Henry, electromyography coordinator at MUSC, left, and Colby Swank, MUSC EEG tech, right, prepare Nayely Guzman for an electroencephalogram (EEG) to try to determine what is causing her seizures.|
Jean Culp wanted to know why her legs kept shaking. In the past, the North Charleston woman would have gone to her regular doctor. But Culp was laid off from her job working in the government’s Charleston passport center and lost her insurance. So how was she able to secure an appointment with neurologist Mimi Sohn of MUSC, free of charge?
“I’m blessed,” Culp said.
Culp discovered the Dream Center Neurology Clinic near her home through an online search. Staffed almost entirely with doctors, nurses and other experts from the Medical University of South Carolina, the Neurology Clinic offers free health care to people who live in North Charleston or Hanahan and suffer from nervous system disorders but can’t afford to pay for treatment. The MUSC employees volunteer their time at the Dream Center Neurology Clinic once a month. They’ve been doing so for more than a year. In the beginning, Jonathan Edwards, M.D., director of MUSC Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, wondered if they’d be able to offer enough clinic support.
He shouldn’t have worried.
“They have more volunteers than they can get. People are kind of climbing over each other to go there,” Edwards said.
The Dream Center Neurology Clinic operates one Saturday a month. It’s part of Seacoast Church’s larger Dream Center, which provides everything from counseling to clinical treatment. Seacoast is an interdenominational church with a main campus in Mount Pleasant. Several years ago, Seacoast noted that North Charleston had been named the seventh most dangerous city in the country by CQ Press (2006) and decided to try to help the community by opening the Dream Center on North Rhett Avenue near I-526. It has expanded dramatically since then.
Edwards is not a member of Seacoast Church. He said the idea for the free neurology clinic evolved before he knew where it would be located. Edwards realized there was a need for such a place while talking with fellow employees in the neurology department at MUSC. They saw some patients who were financially desperate.
“I mean, they can’t afford food,” Edwards said. “And they can’t afford insurance. There’s got to be a better way to do it.” Research led his team to Seacoast’s successful Dream Center, which had a clinic, but no neurology center. In April of 2013, the Dream Center Neurology Clinic opened. While the Neurology Clinic is mostly staffed by MUSC volunteers, Edwards said it’s a partnership. For example, neurologist Thomas Hughes, M.D., has been one of the most active and enthusiastic volunteers, he said.
“We’re there as Dream Center volunteers, not MUSC employees. The majority of us are MUSC, but we’re there under their umbrella, under their malpractice plan, under their policies. We follow their policies.”
Nayely Guzman is among the more than 200 patients who have been seen by MUSC experts in the Dream Center Neurology Clinic since it opened in April of 2013. On a recent Saturday, the petite woman from Veracruz, Mexico, sat silently as Roxanne Henry attached electrodes to Guzman’s head. Guzman had been having seizures and wanted to find out why.
Henry, electromyography coordinator at MUSC, was in charge of preparing Guzman for an electroencephalogram (EEG), which would measure electrical activity in Guzman’s brain. Later, a neurologist from MUSC would discuss the results with Guzman and her sister, who was waiting nearby. There would be no charge for the EEG or the doctor’s assessment.
MUSC has done more than supply the clinic with neurology experts. It has also donated some equipment.
Edwards said he hopes the Dream Center Neurology Clinic serves as a model for other communities and specialties. He and his team are writing a report on their experience that they plan to submit to the journal, Neurology, for publication.
“It’s great. It’s fun. And almost everyone who has volunteered at the Dream Center Neurology Clinic has come back and wanted to do it again.”