The Campbell Community Care Clinic: COVID-19 Brought Telehealth Access and Took Away Touch

Tell us something about yourself.

My name is Andrew Trexler, and I’m a Class of 2023 DO student. I graduated from UNC Chapel Hill and took a 3-year break before starting medical school. During that 3-year interval, I worked as a nurse aide and a postbaccalaureate research fellow for a National Cancer Institute lab at the National Institutes of Health campus in the Research Triangle Park. My hobbies include hiking, reading, volleyball, and, most recently, running.

What drew you to volunteer at the clinic?

I began volunteering at the clinic early in my first year; I was mentored by the class before me and the physicians who oversee clinical operations. Each encounter in the clinic has taught me more about the realities of medicine and those who are left outside of its umbrella. Unfortunately, there are a great number of people who do not have access to affordable healthcare. The CUCCC seeks to fill this gap by providing medical care and prescriptions free-of-charge to the uninsured regardless of race or creed. Serving underserved populations is part of Campbell’s mission – one we medical students wholeheartedly support, perhaps past the point of propriety (if you’ve been to the Mr. CUSOM fundraiser, you know what I mean!).  I volunteer at the clinic to fulfill this goal and as part of a lifelong goal to serve others. In return, the clinic has given me the chance to have meaningful impact on its patients and continue my education outside of the classroom.

What impact has COVID-19 had on you as a student and the CUCCC and its patients?

As I write this, I am confronted by the difficulties arising from the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the disproportionate rate that it is affecting minorities and the black community. The clinic transitioned to a telehealth format, which eliminated personal contact for safety.  So, I can wear a swimsuit underneath my white coat and swim between patients, which seems like a huge benefit, right?  Just kidding!

Andrew Trexler MS-II helps provide telehealth from the coast

In all seriousness,  telehealth provides access, but it also creates barriers.  The unfortunate effect of social-distancing the providers from the patients is we are prevented from touching our patients – we cannot pat them on the shoulder to offer comfort when they share difficult aspects of their health history.  When we deliver diagnoses into a screen, we cannot take their hand to reassure them that a diagnosis is not the end, but only another beginning. What we’ve lost during this pandemic is invaluable and incalculable, but so too is what we’ve gained: a newfound respect for each other and our inescapably common need for touch.