Mercy Health - St. Rita's Medical Center residents standing by ONU's HealthWise Mobile Clinic.

From left: pharmacy residents Drs. Chase Kiriazis, Olivia Welch and Luke Klinehoffer, and medical resident Dr. Benjamin Pasley.

Mercy Health – St. Rita’s Medical Center and the Ohio Northern University Raabe College of Pharmacy have enhanced and extended their outreach-based partnership that has long provided free preventative and proactive services to those with limited access to health care.

What’s new: physicians in St. Rita’s Internal Medicine residency program recently joined the HealthWise Mobile Clinic to assist Northwest Ohio residents.

Mercy Health — St. Rita’s Medical Center internal medicine residents working with the mobile clinic to further both institutions’ service-based missions add significant value to the quality of healthcare expertise offered. The addition of residents transforms the clinic into a “fully-functioning primary care office on wheels,” said Michael Rush, Pharm.D., director of ONU HealthWise and Pharmacy Residence Programs and assistant clinical professor of pharmacy practice. Full physical exams are now offered and clinic patients “can schedule appointments and follow-up for chronic conditions as they would with a brick-and-mortar primary care provider office,” he added.

“St. Rita’s and ONU have long worked together to ensure that everyone in our community has access to quality health care. The addition of physicians to the team will offer an opportunity to expand the services available and fulfill our mission of service to the community,” said Joseph J Sreenan, MD, director of Graduate Medical Education Mercy Health. “This is just a beginning as we hope to further expand the scope of our diagnostic and therapeutic capabilities in the future.”

The mobile clinic, housed in a fully-equipped 38-foot RV, launched in 2015 as a response to surveys that indicated many residents throughout Hardin County experience significant poverty, have higher rates of illnesses and reside in areas designated by the Health Resource and Services Administration as medically underserved. The clinic travels up to four times each week to churches, schools and other gathering locations to help residents overcome access, cost and healthcare provider availability barriers. Its goal is to provide knowledge and resources to address health related concerns and empower individuals to improve their health.

The HealthWise Mobile Clinic, initially funded with a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services grant, operates under the umbrella of ONU’s comprehensive on-campus HealthWise pharmacy and renowned academic program. It provides county residents with vital health and wellness services such as lipid, glucose and diabetes screenings; blood pressure checks; vaccinations; disease risk assessment; tobacco cessation; and referral of patients to primary medical care. The clinic also partners with organizations such as the Kenton-Hardin Health Department for effective outreach.

This past spring, the mobile clinic was designated as a state-sponsored mobile mass vaccination clinic for COVID-19 vaccinations. By implementing a four-day rotating schedule, Students and faculty vaccinated thousands of residents at fairgrounds, fire departments and other sites in six Ohio counties.

The ability to offer even more assistance through this partnership to those in need speaks to both institutions’ core values, partnership leaders say.

Rush calls the collaboration “a historic moment for Ohio Northern University, Mercy Health – St. Rita’s Medical Center and our community.”

“This new partnership will offer those in need access to comprehensive high-quality primary care provided by an interdisciplinary team of healthcare professionals working in tandem,” Rush continues. “The clinic will meet the community where they are and provide a complete primary care experience regardless of their ability to pay. This is a natural evolution of our mobile health clinic and aligns perfectly with the mission and vision of both organizations."