content top

Introductory Video

Click on the screen below to start playing — video is 7½ minutes.

Frontera de Salud is a service organization founded and staffed by medical, nursing and allied health students committed to bringing primary healthcare to the under-served.

Our mission is threefold:

  1. To address community health issues by delivering cost-effective primary care to communities in need;
  2. To further the clinical competency of Frontera volunteers by providing settings in which to perfect their burgeoning skills; and
  3. To encourage students to reflect on the profession of healthcare as a moral practice. While the project is aimed at aiding those in need, it recognizes that aid to be a statement of the humanistic ideal of healthcare.

UTMB Chapter Activities

Caring for Communities
The UTMB Chapter of FRONTERA DE SALUD HAS ESTABLISHED A PARTNERSHIP with the Brownsville Community Health Center, a federally qualified health center in Brownsville, Texas, where Frontera volunteers operate weekend clinics to provide examinations and physician referrals; cancer, diabetes and hypertension screenings; and focused healthcare counseling. In addition, in cooperation with community outreach programs in Cameron Park, an impoverished community on the outskirts of Brownsville, Frontera volunteers offer services beyond the usual scope of clinical practice, e.g. health maintenance classes, domestic violence screening and counseling, men’s health discussion groups, pre-natal workshops, etc. These efforts reflect Frontera’s determination to encourage the students’ appreciation of all aspects of the human experience, emphasizing the rich interplay of mind, body and spirit as these affect health. Through such experience, Frontera nurtures insight and understanding and assists students in building the kind of sincere and sympathetic relationships patients expect of ‘good’ care-givers. (For more about Cameron Park click here.)

Patient Care

FRONTERA’S PRIMARY PARTNER is the Brownsville Community Health Center (BCHC) in Brownsville, TX, which supplies clinic facilities and support staff to conduct Saturday special clinics once per month. During clinics, Frontera teams perform gynecological exams including breast and pelvic exams, pap smear, a well-woman check-up and counseling. The activities of the students are supervised by a BCHC care-provider who consults with students concerning suspicious findings and arranges for physician follow-ups.

On a typical Saturday, thirty (30) gynecology patients are seen. Concurrent with this work, Frontera students also conduct diabetes education classes. Twenty-five (25) patients typically attend the classes where they are familiarized with the nature, symptoms and complications of diabetes, and given specific recommendations to alleviate diabetic complications.

On Sunday, Frontera travels to the community center of Iglesia San Felipe in Cameron Park, an impoverished neighborhood just outside the Brownsville city limits. Services there include blood pressure and blood glucose monitoring stations, depression and domestic violence screenings, a diabetic foot assessment station, and counseling stations to serve individuals whose exams raise suspicion of cardiovascular and/or diabetic disease. On a typical Sunday, Frontera screens and counsels from twenty-five (25) to forty (40) patients, of whom three (3) to five (5) require referral to the BCHC. Frontera is currently expanding its patient care activities with the new Integrated Community Health Care Elective for physicians in residency training programs.

Team Building and Cultural Competency

SINCE MUCH OF FRONTERA’S TARGET POPULATION is Hispanic, cultural sensitivity is critical to the program’s success. Frontera has devised a range of strategies to inculcate cultural competence, beginning with the resources available in virtue of the volunteers’ own diversity. Frontera de Salud comprises a culturally rich mix of Asian, African-American, Anglo and Hispanic students and the program avails itself of the opportunity afforded by this mix to encourage frank discussions of race and culture. Such discussion is critical not only in forging intra-team understanding and solidarity, but also enlarging sensitivity to the cultural differences between the students and the patients they serve. In addition, Frontera is committed to professional as well as cultural diversity: Frontera teams incorporate students from nursing, medical, allied health and graduate school.

The program recognizes that healthcare is a multidisciplinary effort and believes students benefit from early exposure to a team approach, especially when the disciplines are inspired by a shared sense of purpose and moral commitment. In building teams that reflect the cultural and professional diversity of American healthcare, bringing those teams’ efforts to bear in a community that is culturally challenging, and encouraging health care providers to reflect on the barriers to healthcare posed by economic, social and linguistic differences, Frontera works to promote an honest, self-reflective and practice-based approach to cultural diversity.

Education and Quality

TO QUALIFY STUDENTS FOR THEIR WORK, Frontera has developed a preparatory course that includes extra-curricular instruction by volunteer faculty, as well as a lecture series emphasizing the pathophysiology of commonly encountered diseases. In addition, the program sponsors campus-wide discussions focused on topics of specific humanistic importance, e.g. ‘the provider/patient relationship in the era of managed care’, ‘the role of the healthcare professional as citizen’ and ‘the ethical tradition of American healthcare.’ Through these educational efforts, Frontera promotes not only the technical competence of students, but also their understanding of the moral tradition of medicine.