New youth clinic provides care for those at risk

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When Aaron Ho was younger, he never felt comfortable discussing his sexuality with a doctor.

Now he realizes that discomfort may keep some teens and young adults from seeking health care.

But Ho believes USF Health has created an answer: the Ybor Youth Clinic, a new facility for underserved and at-risk youth. USF Health opened the clinic for underserved and high-risk youth on Friday afternoon with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Practitioners will start seeing patients there on Oct. 15.

“I wish I could have gone somewhere like this when I was younger,” said Ho, who is gay and a second-year medical student at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine. “It’s really important for the GLBT youth in this community to come here and feel comfortable, to get their health care in a really accepting environment.”

Ybor Youth Clinic, Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Patty Emmanuel

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn chats with Dr. Patricia Emmanuel, professor and chair of pediatrics at USF Health. Physicians from the USF Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Adolescent Medicine Division will help staff the new clinic.

That’s exactly what USF Health and the clinic’s sponsors have set out to provide. Faculty members already reach out to patients who are vulnerable – teens who wind up homeless after clashes with their families, for instance, whether because of their sexuality or other reasons.

“I have kids who have diabetes, and they’re keeping their insulin in the bushes behind Walgreen’s,” said pediatrician Dr. Diane Straub, chief of the Division of Adolescent Medicine.

The new clinic, located at 1315 E. 7th Ave., Suite 104, is sponsored by USF Health and the Lazydays Employee Foundation. It will provide health care for at-risk youth ages 13 to 24. The clinic will focus on HIV-positive and high-risk youth, including those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning; homeless young people; and those who are sexually exploited. Doctors from the Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Adolescent Medicine Division will see patients, along with community physicians and USF Health medical student volunteers.

Ybor Youth Clinic, Kevin Beckner, Douglas Holt, Randy Lay

Speakers for the grand opening included, l to r, Kevin Beckner, Hillsborough County Commissioner; Dr. Douglas Holt, medical director of the Hillsborough County Health Department; and Randy Lay, president of the Lazydays Employee Foundation.

 The clinic is located in the heart of Ybor City, and its exam rooms feature Ybor-style historic touches, with high ceilings and ornate woodwork. Faculty members hope that the setting, the focus on young people and the accepting atmosphere will help their patients feel at home.

“Young people get turned off so easily by the wrong medical setting,” said Dr. Patricia Emmanuel, chair of the Department of Pediatrics and the Lewis A. Barness Professor of Pediatrics.

In Ybor, she hopes USF Health can help patients who otherwise wouldn’t receive medical care.

“We are inspired by our community and powered by our university,” Dr. Emmanuel told the crowd at Friday’s ceremony.

Randy Lay, president of the Lazydays Employee Foundation, said the clinic is a natural fit with the foundation’s other efforts to help homeless youth in the community. He expects the clinic and other Lazydays programs to refer patients and clients to different programs, so that young people facing difficulties can get a more comprehensive spectrum of help.

“We’re trying to make sure no child falls between the cracks in this community, and that’s what this effort is all about,” Lay said.

Ybor Youth Clinic, grand opening, ribbon cutting

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who addressed the crowd, said he signed up to volunteer at the clinic.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn also had words of praise for the new clinic.

“You are touching lives. You are healing lives,” he told the group. “You are making a difference every day.”

That’s exactly what Ho is hoping for.

“It’s really an opportunity to emulate the success of the BRIDGE Clinic for a whole different population,” he said, pointing to the student-run clinic for underserved residents in the university area.

In Ybor, Ho will help to make sure the youth clinic succeeds. He’s already signed up to volunteer.

Photos by Eric Younghans, USF Health Communications

// -          Photos by Eric Younghans, USF Health Communications