Head Hee, bad teeth, athlete's foot, undernourishment, and "personality difficulties" are among the problems students on the PBH Committee of the Medical School have to spot and try to prevent when they make their weekly examinations of under privileged children at the Dorchester House Clinic.
Every Tuesday four or five volunteers, with a receptionist in tow, set up shop in the clinic's four room suite in Dorchester House, and from 4 to 9 o'clock they check up on the health problems of 20 or so children from the Dorchester neighborhood.
Under the supervision of Dr. Henry S. Forbes, the "medics" have a laboratory, complete with paraphernalia for blood and urine analyses, and an examining room, which is divided off into four sections so that several children may be examined at once.
Most important aspect of this project which has been in continuous operation since before the war, is the opportunity it gives the med student to see the social problems involved in medical practice, said Chairman John C. Cobb 2nd '41, 3M, adding that volunteers have learned to realize that "there is more in medicine than taking a $5 fee."
During the course of a 20-minute routine checkup, Cobb stated, the examiners will find something wrong with 30 percent of the children. Diagnosing the case in the easy part, according to Cebb, but financial circumstances and family health conditions often make it difficult to get the youngster cured.
"Every day is packed with drama down here," Cobb said. "If we spot a kid with rheumatic heart disease, then we have the problem of who is going to pay for treatments? Who is going to pay for X-rays? And who is going to take him to the hospital to get them?"
Often PBH Committee members will find lice in the hair of a child, Cobb related. But even if he is de-loused, "when he gets home the rest of his family have lice also. We face a social problem here, not a medical problem."
Probably the greatest amount of ill health amounts to dental cavities, Cobb added. "It's appalling. You open a child's mouth and find a shell of enamel with a great black hole you can stick your finger into."
The Committee has considered setting up a dental chair, Cobb said, but such a project would be very expensive, and there are other clinics to take care of such cases.
Infrequent emergency situations also trouble the medical students. One child entered the clinic one day with a rusty nall in his foot. Though anti-tetanus serum was necessary, the students are not permitted by law to administer it. Thus the problem of getting in touch with busy neighborhood doctors, or of supplying funds for hospital transportation arose. Though this problem was solved, it is the kind of perplexing situation that confronts the "medics" occasionally, Cobb said.
Visiting nurses aid the clinic in checking these cases, Cobb reported, and frequently the help of local hospitals in curing clinic-diagnozed ailments is 'gratifying."