School Board Awards Pediatrics for Ronald McDonald Care Mobile Program

L to R: Lee Bonta, USF Health Office of Development & Alumni Affairs, Dr. Lynne Ringenberg, Medical Director of USF College of Medicine, Pediatrics Dept. Ronald McDonald Care Mobile Program, and Jeannette Fleischer, ARNP, Program Director.

On May 20, 2008 officials from the Hillsborough County School Board awarded the team in USF Health Pediatrics for its efforts with the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile. The care mobile bearing the name of the internationally recognized clown “Ronald McDonald” is used by pediatric faculty, medical students, pediatric residents, nurse practitioner students and nursing students to visit approximately 60 schools in Hillsborough and one in Pasco County. The care mobile also visits a domestic shelter and a homeless shelter on a weekly basis. The mobile health program recently marked a milestone, providing free care to over 3-thousand children and adolescents in the past 24 months. Visits by the care mobile and USF Health crew are done in Title 1 schools which are primarily located in underserved communities where a majority of the students qualify for free and reduced lunch.

The 40 foot medical and dental clinic-on-wheels has a home at USF Health Pediatrics thanks to a collaborative relationship with Ronald McDonald House Charities of Tampa Bay. This is one of only 29 care mobiles in operation worldwide. Inspired by the number of children served, the care mobile team is out in the schools five days a week providing health care to many, including some Saturday visits for various community events, like sports and back to school physicals and health fairs.

With award in hand, USF Health’s Karen Van Cleaf, RN Nurse Manager of Pediatrics, celebrates with Veronica Gonner, (at right) ARNP, Vice President for Women & Children Services.

The May 20 recognition for USF Health Pediatrics was part of a school board meeting that also recognized the community efforts of Tampa General Hospital and 8 other local organizations.

“I think that we are extremely fortunate to have a mobile clinic like this in order to help innumerable families and their children,” says Jeannette Fleisher, ARNP, Ronald McDonald Care Mobile Program Director. “We’ve been able to detect many undiagnosed diseases and address untreated medical conditions during our visits with families. These are health problems that keep the children from either attending school or from fulfilling their academic potential because they can’t do well in class if they aren’t feeling well. We’re very fortunate to be able to help. We wish we were able to go to more schools.”

Background on the care mobile…
Since January 2006, the Department of Pediatrics in the University of South Florida’s College of Medicine has been home to the care mobile. Jeannette Fleischer, ARNP, is the Program Director. Dr. Lynn Ringenberg is the Medical Director. Last Summer, the team worked with the S.M.A.R.T. Institute at USF Health. By combining their medical expertise, the care mobile team provided pre-participation physical exams required for school athletic teams.

During this June 23,2007 school visit, for example, the USF Health team included experts in pediatrics and sports medicine. In all, they saw approximately 85 children in just four hours.

“The program strives to identify, treat and refer children with chronic or untreated health conditions, improve health outcomes, provide continuity of care, educated children and families, and screen and enroll eligible families in federal Medicaid or state insurance programs”, explains Dr. Ringenberg. The USF Health pediatrician estimates that more than 50 per cent of the kids they see in the Ronald McDonald ‘van’ are un-insured – making their visits critical for families whose only alternative to seeing a doctor may be going to a hospital emergency room.

For more information on upcoming visits by the care mobile or information on how to contribute to this program, click here
or contact (813) 259-8754.

Story by Lissette Campos