Medical students bidding during auction at Lighthouse gala.

Medical students participate in bidding during the live auction portion of the Lighthouse Free Medical Clinic annual gala fundraiser.

Fundraiser Benefits Student-Run Free Medical Clinic in City

Published March 25, 2022

story by dirk hoffman

The Lighthouse Free Medical Clinic’s (LFMC) annual gala fundraiser returned to an in-person event this year and raised $20,000 to help fund the student-run free clinic.


For nearly two decades, the LFMC has provided free medical and preventive care to uninsured and underinsured residents of Buffalo.

Founded and managed by medical students from the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, the non-profit clinic is located at the Community Health Center of Buffalo, 34 Benwood Ave.

The LFMC provides all of its services for free, including sick visits, dermatology and women’s health services, annual work or school physicals, and sexually-transmitted disease testing/other labs.

Any supplies required for these are paid for through donations.

More Than 300 People Attend Downtown Event

Nancy Nielsen, David Milling and Allison Brashear.

From left, Nancy H. Nielsen, MD, PhD; David A. Milling, MD; and Allison Brashear, MD; enjoy the festivities.

More than 300 people attended this year’s Lighthouse Gala fundraiser Feb. 12 at the Foundry Suites on Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo.

“It is heartwarming to see community members and area businesses support the mission of the Lighthouse Free Medical Clinic,” says Allison Brashear, MD, UB’s vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School.

“Delivering free medical services to vulnerable populations, while providing valuable training experience for our medical students, is truly a win-win situation.”

Among the basket auction items that generated the highest bids were: a medical spa donation from the Aesthetic Associates Center; a grand jacuzzi package from Russell’s Steaks, Chops & More; and a $100 gift certificate from the Taste of Siam restaurant, according to Jamie Hagerty, a first-year medical student who is the incoming fundraising and outreach manager for the LFMC.

Live auction favorites were: a BBQ in the backyard of David A. Freedman, PhD; a boat tour and lunch with Michael E. Cain, MD; and a trip to Hatchets and Hops for six people with Nicolas J. Silvestri, MD; Hagerty says.

Return to In-Person Event Sparks Excitement

Tessa Alianell, a second-year medical student who is the outgoing fundraising and outreach manager for the LFMC, says it was wonderful to be able to have the fundraiser be an in-person event after 2021’s event was held as a virtual auction due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are always so honored and humbled by the support the Buffalo community extends every year to the Lighthouse Clinic and for the gala,” she says.

“Even despite the trials the small business community has faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had an overwhelming amount of support in both monetary and item donations for our event.”

“There was definitely a lot of excitement for the gala as it was an opportunity for people to come together in person again and for Buffalo businesses to show off what they have to offer to a live audience,” Alianell adds.

Valuable Service to Community and Students

In addition to providing free medical services to help combat health disparities in Buffalo, the Lighthouse Clinic provides valuable training experience for medical students.

“Over the past year, I have learned so much in and out of the classroom here in Buffalo, but many of my most impactful lessons have been learned as a manager and volunteer at Lighthouse,” Alianell says. “After spending countless hours studying and learning, I go to the clinic on Fridays and am reminded about why I came to medical school — to serve others.”

Alianell says medical students have the opportunity to practice hands-on skills such as drawing blood and coordinating a patient's visit from start to finish.

“We get to do this all alongside our wonderful allied health partners and learn firsthand how an interprofessional team provides care for some of our most vulnerable populations,” she says.

“I have seen students, volunteers and advisers alike work together to go above and beyond to serve patients and the community — whether it be paying for a patient’s Uber, calling midweek to check up on someone, or starting a completely new initiative to meet the needs of our community — there is always someone going the extra mile.”

“Seeing students, physicians, and allied health professionals from the local community come together and volunteer their time to provide care for our community has been such a humbling and enriching experience,” Alianell adds.

The clinic takes appointments and walk-ins are also welcome. Each patient is screened for COVID-19 symptoms and exposure. If they screen positive, they are referred outside of the clinic so they can be tested and receive care in a safe environment. 

The clinic’s hours are from 5 to 10 p.m. every Friday. New walk-ins are accepted until 8 p.m.