Leaving the Davidson Bubble | Starting my Davidson Impact Fellowship at Matthews Free Medical Clinic

Here’s a list of some of my biggest challenges while attending Davidson College:

  • Receiving a 45 out of 100 on my first biology exam (when the range of scores was 45-96)
  • Living with the nickname “sack of potatoes” freshman year, though that was mostly self-induced due to infrequent laundering and a lack of personal grooming enthusiasm
  • Having to attend 8:15am courses
  • Walking into a tree after staying up all night to study for an exam
  • Missing Steph Curry’s campus visit while studying abroad in Shanghai
  • Getting strep throat five times

Adversity for me was walking a few hundred feet with a fever to the College Health Center. Once there, I was able to enter without an appointment, get tested immediately, and subsequently receive medication and a goody bag of chocolate pudding and Gatorade upon diagnosis. Living in Davidson’s bubble, I didn’t think much about how privileged this was. Now having graduated and begun work at Matthews Free Medical Clinic as a Davidson Impact Fellow, I am much more aware of the reality of healthcare access in the Charlotte area, and the superficiality of my “trials and tribulations” as a Davidson College student.

North Carolina is one of the 19 states that decided against expanding Medicaid to childless adults and families with income levels up to 138% of the federal poverty level. Instead, North Carolina’s Medicaid eligibility is reserved for families with income levels at or below 45% of the federal poverty level. Though childless adults and families in North Carolina may be eligible for subsidies if their income levels are between 100-400% of the federal poverty level, there are North Carolinians left in a healthcare coverage gap because they do not qualify for Medicaid or these subsidies. Of non-elderly North Carolinians living under 200% of the federal poverty level, 29% were uninsured as of 2015 (according to Kaiser Family Foundation’s estimates based on the Census Bureau’s March Current Population Survey (CPS: Annual Social and Economic Supplements), 2014-2016)). To put this into perspective, below is the annual income of families at 200% of the federal poverty level:

200% of the Federal Poverty Level

  • Family of 1: $24,120
  • Family of 2: $32,480
  • Family of 3: $40,840
  • Family of 4: $49,200
  • Family of 5: $57,560
  • Family of 6: $65,920

Matthews Free Medical Clinic specifically focuses on this population of uninsured North Carolinians, the uninsured and non-elderly (ages 14-64) individuals of Mecklenburg and Union Counties that have family income levels at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. Our Clinic currently provides free healthcare services to over 300 active patients at any given time. The Clinic is not walk-in, and applicants must meet specific criteria to become accepted as patients.  It is important to note that although the 200% federal poverty level is representative of the Clinic’s ceiling for patient admittance, the average annual income of our patients is far below this. As of early August 2017, the average annual income of Matthews Free Medical Clinic patients was at only 79% of the federal poverty level.  These North Carolinians are financially desperate for healthcare assistance – and Matthews Free Medical Clinic serves them.

Despite being a free medical clinic, we strive to give our patients the same experiences as those received at any other medical facility. Not only does Matthews Free Medical Clinic provide primary care, but with 28 different volunteer providers, the Clinic is able to offer services ranging from cardiology and gynecology, to physical therapy and acupuncture. Patients at Matthews Free Medical Clinic are given consistent care through a permanently assigned primary care physician, who can also provide referrals to specialty and ancillary services.

Within my first two months working at the Clinic, I have analyzed demographic clinical data and presented to the Clinic’s board members, supervised and led renovations of the Clinic during Elevation Church’s Love Week, assisted in the screening process for new patient applications, updated the new patient and recertification screening sheets, assisted in the hiring of a certified medical assistant and more.

It is rewarding to know that my work is helping an organization that is making a difference in the lives of those in my own community. Access to healthcare is a real challenge for so many in the United States. It is a real challenge in North Carolina. Sometimes it takes stepping out of your own bubble to gain perspective. I am very excited about my future as a Davidson Impact Fellow and my remaining time at Matthews Free Medical Clinic.

Leaving the Davidson Bubble | Starting my Davidson Impact Fellowship at Matthews Free Medical Clinic


  1. Jeanne-marie ryan says

    Grace, thank you for sharing your insights, for giving us a glimpse of the challenges faced by community members desperately in need of affordable healthcare. We are so happy that you are able to have such incredible impact through your work this year at Matthews Free Medical Clinic.
    Here on campus we are all so proud of you!

  2. Your work is putting the impact front and center. I am very happy that you have been able to make a difference in the lives of others so quickly. You are applying all that you learned at Davidson, in and out of the class, and putting your talents where they are needed.

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