Kids celebrate opening of clinic in their school

December 13, 2016
Meeting Street Elementary @Brentwood
Sullivan Giavelli, Jordan Green and Avery Everette hold the symbolic key to the new clinic. Photos by Sarah Pack.

The next time 9-year-old Sullivan Giavelli gets sick, she won’t have to go far for help. MUSC Health has opened a first-of-its kind clinic right in her North Charleston school, Meeting Street Elementary @Brentwood. Her mom is thrilled.

“I just think it makes it convenient for working parents,” Whitney Giavelli said. “MUSC has some of the best health care providers there are, so you are going to be assured they’re going to get great health care.”

The MUSC Children’s Health Meeting Street Elementary @Brentwood School-Based Health Center will have a full-time nurse practitioner who can diagnose conditions, order X-rays and lab work and write prescriptions. A pediatrician will also see patients once a week.

Medical University of South Carolina President David Cole, M.D., said the clinic will help keep kids in school and their parents at work. “I’d say there’s a critical need for innovation and doing things differently as we move forward, because we have what is often a broken system of health care. Sometimes it’s in the communities that we want to serve the most that we do the poorest job,” Cole said.

“We hope this is a start, a pilot, an opportunity to show what can be done. And in so doing, maybe we’re starting to walk down a path that really has a meaningful impact.”

While this is the first full-time school clinic for MUSC Health, it’s not the first school that it has worked with. MUSC Health offers telehealth programs to more than a dozen schools in the Charleston area and 40 across the state. Telehealth connects school nurses and their patients with specialists at MUSC Health via technology, using video cameras and diagnostic equipment.

Leaders at Meeting Street Elementary @Brentwood say the new clinic is a great fit for their school, which emphasizes innovation aimed at improving the lives of children in low-income areas. Pamela Pepper, who serves as director of family and student support at the school, grew emotional as three children prepared to cut a ribbon to mark the opening of the clinic. 

“I look at these little ones and say wow, this is a big day. And the big day comes because the partnership with MUSC really is huge,” Pepper said. “Dr. Cole, thank you for entrusting us with this partnership.”

Shi-Mei Everette, a counselor at the school whose son Avery is in second grade, was just as enthusiastic. “When I heard we were getting an MUSC clinic I was like, ‘that’s the best thing ever having the clinic on campus, where the kids don’t have to leave.’ 

Some of them have transportation issues. This is a big lifesaver for them.”

She wondered how insurance would work. 

Kathryn Cristaldi, M.D., had some answers. She serves as medical director for school-based telehealth at the MUSC Health Center for Telehealth and will work at the school clinic one day a week. “Medicaid pays for visits in full,” she said. “Private insurance plans vary. We’re working with private insurance companies to secure coverage.”

She’s been part of the effort to open the school clinic from the start and called the opening a dream come true. “This is what we’ve always talked about. This is comprehensive health right where kids are. School-based health works, and we know that it makes a difference. It increases academic performance and has positive impacts on health outcomes.

Facts About School-Based Telehealth at MUSC Health

  • Meets kids' needs in the place where they spend most of their time
  • Offers acute care, chronic disease management and specialized mental health care
  • Reduces amount of class time kids have to miss
  • Is available to all children in Williamsburg and Bamberg counties
  • Is available in some schools in Florence, Sumter and Charleston counties
  • Uses telehealth as needed, with a special stethoscope, otoscope and exam camera
  • Has grown from 3 schools connected via telehealth in 2014 to more than 40 in 2016, with continued expansion plans underway


Map of South Carolina displaying where school-based telehealth and school-based telemental health programs are offered.


About the Author

Helen Adams