Do Student Run Free Clinics Influence Chinese Medical Students’ Career Interests in Primary Care?

  • Mengyi Zha Mayo Clinic Health System – Franciscan Healthcare in La Crosse
  • Andrew Zhao Mayo Clinic Health System – Franciscan Healthcare in La Crosse
  • Rui Zhang Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College


Background and Objectives: The Sunshine and Love Free Clinic (SLFC) was founded in 2010, and is currently only student-run free clinic (SRFC) in China. With China being only in the early stage of developing and promoting primary care nationally, SLFC serves as the earliest primary care model for the urban poor. It also is one of the only exposures to primary care for its medical student volunteers. The United States researches on the impact of volunteering at SRFCs have not shown a statistically significant impact on volunteers’ career choices. Our study explores the influence of volunteering at SLFC on student volunteers’ interest in primary care among Chinese medical students.

Methods: We surveyed 34 volunteers who have spent various length of time volunteering at SLFC regarding their interests in primary care before and after volunteering. We used chi-square to analyze the significance of this influence.

Results: 27 volunteers had an increase in their interests in choosing primary care, and 8 more students are considering primary care as a career than before volunteering. This is statistically important with a p<0.05.

Conclusions: SLFC is one of the earliest primary care clinic model for China’s urban poor, in the back ground of the absence of primary care in China. Volunteering at SLFC has a positively influence students to consider primary care as their future career paths. Promoting SRFCs nationally can be a good thing for the future of primary care in China.

Author Biographies

Mengyi Zha, Mayo Clinic Health System – Franciscan Healthcare in La Crosse
La Crosse-Mayo Family Medicine Residency, PGY1
Andrew Zhao, Mayo Clinic Health System – Franciscan Healthcare in La Crosse
La Crosse-Mayo Family Medicine Residency, PGY1
Rui Zhang, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College

Geisel School of Medicine, MS1


Wang M. On the model of higher education(浅谈我国高等教育模式). Qiqihar Medical College Journal. 2008;29.

Albanese M, Snow M, Skochelak S, Huggett K, Farrell P. Assessing Personal Qualities in Medical School Admissions. Academic Medicine. 2003;78(3):313-321. doi:10.1097/00001888-200303000-00016.

Sun Z., Cai, Huang Y. Modern medical education medical students: Reflections on Humanistic Education(现代医学教育中医学生人文素质教育的几点思考). Chinese Medical Ethics. 2002;16:56-57.

Yang Wang S. From medical humanities to see the spirit of the reshaping of medical humanities(从医学人文素养缺失看医学人文精神的重塑). Jiujiang Medicine, Psycho-social medical. 2016;23.

Zhang. Professionalism of medical students(医学生职业精神养成有效模式的探讨). Chinese Medical Ethics. 2007;20.

Seifer S. Service-learning. Academic Medicine. 1998;73(3):273-7. doi:10.1097/00001888-199803000-00015.

北京大学医学部2014届本专科及长学制毕业生留校名单_北京大学医学部. Bjmueducn. 2016. Available at: Accessed June 9, 2014.

Herold A, Woodard L, Pamies R, Roetzheim R, Van Durme D, Micceri T. Influence of longitudinal primary care training on medical studentsʼ specialty choices. Academic Medicine. 1993;68(4):281-4. doi:10.1097/00001888-199304000-00015.

Tong S, Phillips R, Berman R. Is exposure to a student-run clinic associated with future primary care practice?. Fam Med. 2012;44(8):579-581.

Hesketh T, Wu D, Mao L, Ma N. Violence against doctors in China. BMJ. 2012;345:e5730-e5730. doi:10.1136/bmj.e5730.