Baylor University Pre-med Student Volunteers During Pandemic, Finds Calling at Mission Waco Health Clinic

June 16, 2020
KaraBaylor University senior Kara Jones, volunteer at Mission Waco Health Clinic (Courtesy photo)

Senior takes what she learns in the classroom and gains real-world experience in a Christian environment

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By Kaitlyn Rieper, marketing specialist, Baylor Marketing and Brand Strategy

WACO, Texas (June 16, 2020) – When Baylor’s campus was closed due to COVID-19, Kara Jones drove several times from her home in San Antonio to Waco — a 360-mile round trip — as one of the few volunteers able to help out Mission Waco Health Clinic during that time.

Jones, a senior pre-med health science studies major, has volunteered with the clinic since her first year at Baylor. It would have been easy to take the summer off because of the pandemic, but she took her commitment even further than the long commute. Jones chose to move to Waco for the summer to act as one of the clinic’s two interns.

“I am thankful to continue to be able to serve the Waco community,” Jones said. “Everyone is looking for a way to help during the pandemic, and I am very thankful to Mission Waco for giving me an avenue to help others during this medical crisis.”

At the clinic, Jones typically takes patients’ blood pressure and temperature, as well as notes symptoms and current medications. COVID-19 precautions have required screening incoming patients, donning masks and increasing disinfection measures.

While the clinic procedures look a bit different, Jones welcomes it as another opportunity to take what she learns in her Baylor courses and apply it outside the classroom – a valuable and humbling experience, she said.

“This isn't a textbook. This is a real person,” Jones said. “I've enjoyed getting the different aspect of actually using what I've learned to help people in real life. It helps me realize that I'm not learning in a vacuum. I can go and help somebody who needs my help.”

Mission Waco, founded by Baylor alumni Jimmy Dorrell, BA ’72, MES ’93, and his wife, Janet Dorrell, BSHE ’80, MS ’02, is a nonprofit program built to empower and aid the poor and marginalized. One of the program’s many community services is the Mission Waco Health Clinic, which treats the health needs of the working poor and homeless and serves as a bridge to getting patients long-term care.

The clinic relies heavily on volunteers. The clinic has remained open during the pandemic to serve uninsured and low-income patients through the help of volunteers, and it is beginning to slowly re-open its specialty clinics, like orthopedic services, with extra precautions, said Kirsten Schubel, co-director for the Mission Waco Health Clinic.

“Our patients are uninsured and low-income people, and with a lot of people recently losing their job and their health insurance at the same time, we want to continue to be a resource for them,” Schubel said. “We remained open during the entire shelter-in-place period, providing general medicine consultations and tuberculosis tests, thanks to volunteers like Kara who were still in town.

“It has been a pleasure working with Kara as she is always eager to help and learn from every new situation,” Schubel said. “She recently became one of two summer interns, and I can see her awareness of health care and social justice issues increasing each day she spends at the clinic. I am glad to pass knowledge to interns that will allow them to empower patients. I hope it will make the interns better people, and in Kara's case, a better doctor.”

A career in health care seemed to be in the genes for Kara. Her father is a doctor; her mother is a retired pharmacist; and her brother, Jacob, BS ’19, is in medical school. Jones credits her rigorous academic experience at Baylor and volunteering at the clinic with reinforcing that she chose the right path.

“I feel like I've grown a lot of confidence in talking to people. Also, I feel like I've grown in my sensitivity toward the needs of others,” Jones said. “The patients we see, they just don't have access to medical care, and they would usually just go to the emergency room. I like that even as an undergraduate I can help these people who wouldn't otherwise be able to get that help, which is really nice and really fulfilling to see.”

Jones also has been thankful that the work in the clinic gives her the opportunity to see health care in a Christian environment. Feeling called to be a doctor, she said she takes in every opportunity to witness Christian health care providers at work.

“Almost every single medical provider I've shadowed has asked if the patient would like for the medical provider to pray for them, which I found to be really refreshing,” Jones said. “I want to go be a doctor someday, and that doesn't just mean fixing people's physical problems that they come to you for, but also people have spiritual needs or they just need somebody to talk to sometimes. To see that gave me a little bit of perspective on how I should be acting as a medical provider one day.”

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 18,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

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