Building Trust and Training Tomorrow’s Providers: The Impact of Mobile Clinics on Healthcare Equity


In our interview with Renee Linyard-Gary, Director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Health Equity at Roper St. Francis Healthcare, we explore how their mobile health clinic is providing vital health screenings and serving as training grounds for the next generation of healthcare providers, paving the way for enhanced cultural competency in healthcare.

Q: Please tell us about the work you’re doing with your mobile clinic.

Renee Linyard-Gary: At Roper St. Francis’s Mobile Health Unit, we provide basic health screenings and health education to underserved patients and marginalized communities. The purpose of the clinic is not only to offer these essential services but also to build the community’s trust in Roper St. Francis as a provider that treats all people with compassion, faith, and excellence. Driving the unit into their neighborhoods is the first step in this effort. The mobile unit is our pathway into areas that may have been marginalized, dealt with mistrust of the health system for years, or lacked access to care due to their rural locations.

This is our health equity van. Health equity really starts with prevention and education at Roper St. Francis.

Serving a Diverse Community

Q: Tell us more about the community you serve.

R.L.: The Greater Charleston Tri-County area is incredibly diverse and a hotspot for tourism. While rich in diversity, many in our community lack the same resources and access as others. These individuals often support our tourism industry, working on the front lines in restaurants, hotels, kitchens, housekeeping, and even in our health system.

We need to build cultural competencies due to the variability in our community. For example, in Berkeley County, neighborhoods can vary significantly in socioeconomic status within just a mile. You can find people living in generational family homes alongside residents of trailer parks, all within a short distance.

Providing services that meet these diverse needs is a challenge, but it’s essential.

Q: How does your team support the mobile health unit, and what role do volunteer providers play.

R.L: The main star of our unit is our mobile health program coordinator, Sharonda Stokes, who hails from rural Andrews, South Carolina. She makes a daily two-hour commute to operate the mobile unit. Sharonda brings extensive experience as a trained CMA, having worked in both the cancer center and clinic. Her role is pivotal in ensuring the success of our mobile clinic. To complement the unit, we’ve built a strong team of community health workers and navigators, managing a rotating schedule to prevent burnout.

Our providers at Roper St. Francis Hospital are a significant strength to our mobile clinic. They eagerly volunteer for special events and health fairs, embodying the mission of providing care with compassion and excellence. For example, our colorectal specialists assist with colorectal cancer screening events, while our breast surgeons conduct clinical breast exams and ensure that patients needing mammograms can access our brick-and-mortar services. Even our stroke professionals and neurology providers actively participate by performing risk assessments and distributing educational materials within the community.

Together with Sharonda’s leadership and the dedication of our community health workers, our volunteer providers are paving the way to expand the range of primary and specialized care services offered through the unit.

Training Future Healthcare Providers

Q: How do you view the role of training future providers, and what initiatives have you implemented to prepare high school and college students for careers in healthcare?

R.L: We’ve utilized our mobile unit to educate high school and college students. We’ve started by engaging programs like HOSA Future Health Professionals (Health Occupations Students of America) at the high school level, highlighting the nontraditional healthcare roles available on the unit. We’ve taken our mobile clinic to mentorship programs and even middle schools through partnerships with feeder high schools. Communities of color or marginalized communities don’t see themselves represented in healthcare. Our mobile health clinic can help them see the path they want to take. We want to start as early as we can. We talk about health equity in terms of education, educating the younger community about the opportunities available to them after high school. Many of us want to be the change within our own communities. We can help foster that change when we mentor students.

Communities of color or marginalized communities don’t see themselves represented in healthcare. Our mobile health clinic can help them see the path they want to take. 

Q. How do you think mobile clinics nationwide can equip up-and-coming clinicians and providers with the skills they need to serve diverse populations, and what specific experiences do you offer to medical residents in your program?

R.L: Working with a mobile clinic provides invaluable experience in building community trust and understanding cultural competencies. For residency programs potentially joining us, medical residents get invaluable experience in building community trust. We’re taking residents to where some of the sickest patients are and helping them learn how to build trust with the community. Those experiences are invaluable to the work. In my role, I also get the opportunity to have meet-and-greets with potential providers in their residency who want to join our system. We talk about the mobile unit as an indicator of cultural competence and humility. We want them to know that within our institution, we have a mechanism for them to step away from the day-to-day clinic and engage in community service. We have a way for you to do that anytime you want to get back to your roots.

Unique Advantages of Mobile Clinics

Q: What can mobile clinics do for communities that traditional brick-and-mortar healthcare systems cannot?

R.L: Mobile health clinics offer several advantages over traditional brick-and-mortar healthcare systems. They break down barriers in communities with significant mistrust or limited access to healthcare. People know we come to their neighborhoods wanting to help, to be their healthcare advocates, to participate in their healthcare because we’re coming to their communities. It’s a trust factor that cannot be stressed enough. When we drive into your community and park the unit, it signifies our commitment as a healthcare system to care for all people. This demonstrates compassion and excellence.

Engaging the Community

Q: How do mobile clinics engage the broader community and foster a sense of shared responsibility for health and well-being?

R.L: Our mobile unit not only serves the underserved but also engages more resource-rich community members who want to contribute. There are many compassionate individuals who, beyond philanthropy, want to provide resources — whether in-kind, physical, or financial — to be a part of their community and give back. Mobile health clinics really facilitate this. They offer more than just care; they give the community a place to congregate and contribute. Whether parked at a park, recreation center, or business, they bring people together so that we can all take care of the community together. This is a hidden gem of the mobile health unit.

In conclusion, Roper St. Francis Healthcare’s Mobile Clinic is not only vital in delivering essential healthcare services to underserved communities but also plays a crucial role in training the next generation of healthcare providers. By fostering community trust and enhancing cultural competencies, this mobile unit exemplifies the mission of compassionate and excellent care. The dedication of staff, volunteer providers, and medical residents ensures that Roper St. Francis Healthcare’s mobile clinic continues to bridge gaps in healthcare access and serve as a model for community engagement and health equity.

Renee Linyard-Gary serves as the Director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Health Equity at Roper St. Francis Healthcare, and she’s a leading voice shaping diversity, inclusion, and health equity in Charleston Lowcountry and the Carolinas.