At a time in everyone’s life, we come to find ourselves in a situation where the music stops, and we must go on.  The unfortunate truth about life is that the unexpected will happen. Some of us learn from it, some of us change because of it and some of us find our life’s calling because of it. The latter was the case for me.  After our dad picked us up from middle school, we spent that afternoon like we had every afternoon that month. We went to the oncology unit at the hospital, where my brother was admitted.



I remember him. I remember the man in the dark blue sarong the same way I remember the lines on back of my own hand. He was hunched over next to a column on a dirty platform at a railway station in Calcutta, India in the middle of the harsh summer sun. His hands were withered, his fingers and toes looked like tiny nubs, and he was completely malnourished and alone. He had opaque blue eyes, as if fog had taken place of his irises and pupils.



I studied insects in college; my favorite insects were the bees (I found them diligent and so helpful to humankind).  One of my favorite classes was about medical diseases caused by insects. My professors noticed my interest in the medical side of things and connected me with a professor who did clinical research. Our work focused on a clinical trial for children with intractable epilepsy and exposed me early on to patient care and patients.


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to start, or even navigating the insurance system in an environment that is often not here to serve them, goes such a long way in keeping these women and children healthy.”

Wagner considers his time at the clinic as central to his medical education saying, “The attendings who volunteer at SAC have such a huge heart for this patient population and are so gentle, respectful, and affirming in their bedside manner – often I leave SAC having gleaned a better picture of the kind of doctor I want to be.”

This highlights the role of the Salvation Army Clinic as an important teaching environment where students at the UKCOM receive instruction and mentorship from physician volunteers.

Dr. Reema Patel, a fellow at the University of Kentucky, embraces her role as a teacher. She said, “We make an impact by grooming young medical students into caring and adept physicians.”  She further notes that, “Early exposure to patient care allows us to see them grow into the next generation and this is extremely satisfying.”

She went on to say, “Working with our medical students is always a fresh reminder of why I signed up for lifelong learning and patient care. Their excitement at learning new skills or facts keeps me motivated and can wear an entire day of stress away.” Patel is proud of the work volunteers do at the SAC and through her service, she hopes to inspire her colleagues to embrace and share their passion with students.

Dr. Terrence Barrett, Chief of Digestive and Nutrition Sciences at UK HealthCare, has volunteered at the SAC for over four years and has mentored many students along the way. “I think it is important for physicians to set an example of service for students who will become future doctors,” Barrett said. Despite his often-busy schedule, Barrett draws upon a sense of empathy and justice to make time to extend care to patients with limited healthcare access.

For decades, the spirit of service and compassion exemplified by these extraordinary volunteers, and so many others, has created a welcoming clinic environment for patients with extraordinary needs. Each week at the Salvation Army Clinic, teams of volunteers proudly continue this tradition of service while working diligently to improve the health and wellbeing of vulnerable patients in the Lexington community.

For more information please visit:  

To apply to become a physician volunteer email: or marc.  

University of Kentucky Salvation  Army Clinic Hours:

Tuesday and Thursdays 5:30-9:00pm

Patients seen on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Please sign in at the front desk of the W. Arnold Hanger Lodge beginning at 4:30pm.

Location and Contact: 736 West Main Street, Lexington, KY 40508.  Phone: (859) 488-1223 Fax: (859) 243-0206

From humble beginnings as a curtained-off corner of the Salvation Army cafeteria to a 3-room acute care clinic serving hundreds of patients every year, the University of Kentucky Salvation Army Clinic (SAC) has been a leader in providing care for underserved patients in the Lexington community for over 30 years. The SAC provides free medical services to patients while working to increase community awareness of local healthcare resources.

Primary care services are delivered onsite every Tuesday and Thursday evening along with basic lab and pharmacy services. In recent years, the SAC has expanded its scope of service by adding clinics for smoking cessation counseling, nutrition, pediatrics, women’s health and ophthalmology. A partnership with the Bluegrass Community Health Center allows the SAC to refer patients to a clinic where they may establish more comprehensive and affordable long- term care. Patients are also offered free taxi vouchers to transport them to these outside appointments, helping to eliminate lack of transportation as a barrier to care.

A team of 22 second-year medical students oversee the operations of the clinic each year. These students go above and beyond to balance the workload of a medical education with their duties managing the clinic. Each officer team works to build upon the successes of previous teams while implementing new creative ideas and initiatives to further the mission of the SAC.


Providing treatment to patients in need and bridging gaps in access to care is no small task, but this weekly challenge is met by the tireless dedication of dozens of medical student and physician volunteers. Benjamin Wagner, a third-year student in the University of Kentucky College of Medicine (UKCOM), cites the opportunity to work at the SAC as one of the primary factors in pursuing a medical education at the University of Kentucky. He said, “I really appreciate our school’s commitment to providing care to those who need it, starting from our first year in med school.”

Wagner, a recent recipient of the Brian W. Adkins Award for Outstanding Service at the Salvation Army Clinic, relishes the opportunity to play a role in extending care to women and children with severely limited access to healthcare at the Salvation Army.

“We may not be able to fix every problem a patient comes in with at SAC, but we can start to address them in a systematic way, connecting them with resources and next steps,” states Wagner. “Refills on prescription meds that haven’t been filled in six months because the patient is between jobs, or access to a smoking cessation clinic because a patient has always wanted to quit but didn’t know how