‘Born out of necessity’: Trinity Free Clinic now offering vocational training for roles it found difficult to fill


A trio of new education programs offered at Trinity Free Clinic in Carmel provide grant-subsidized vocational training to Hamilton County residents seeking opportunities as dental assistants, medical assistants and patient service representatives.

An idea rooted in necessity when the clinic faced an influx of new patients during the pandemic and needed to hire new staff, the programs are the brainchild of TFC directors Mel Wischmeyer and Cindy Love.

“With that huge increase in visits, we tried to hire a medical assistant, (but) with the health care workforce shortage, we couldn’t find one to hire,” Wischmeyer said.

Wischmeyer and Love considered that TFC provides rotations to students from IU School of Nursing, IU School of Dentistry and Butler and Purdue university pharmacy programs in addition to an established summer intern program and knew they could build on those experiences.

“In 2022, we made the decision that we invest so much in educating students from the surrounding universities and we thought maybe it’s time to grow our own student program here,” Wischmeyer said.

The clinic introduced the six-month dental assistant program last year, and the four June 2023 graduates have advanced to careers in the field earning $20 to $22 per hour.

“The focus on learning by doing helps students become successful,” Love said.

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Dr. Dennis Heritier works with dental assistant students on identification of instruments and tray set up.

Students in the program spend two days in the classroom and two days on a clinic rotation. Classes have a 12-student capacity.

“There’s a lot of overlap between the two when it comes to clinical skills and lab skills – making sure that they’re really learning and applying the right techniques,” Wischmeyer said.

Inspired by the success of the pilot program, TFC now offers 12-week medical assistant and patient service representative programs. Wischmeyer and Love hope patients from the clinic and those in the community struggling to find a career path will consider the programs.

“All of the programs are driven to either licensure or certification,” Love said. “We want to make sure that the students are hirable when they leave, that they’re competent, confident and good at what they do. They reflect us when they go out into the community.”

Wischmeyer said the demand is high for dental and medical assistants.

“Everything that we’re doing in our education programs is born out of necessity,” Wischmeyer said.

The patient service program trains students for positions as front office staff. TFC also provides training for interpreters.

“We need to make sure that every patient receives care in the language that they can understand,” Wischmeyer said. “Culturally inclusive care is very important to us here at Trinity.”

What sets TFC programs apart is their ability to provide paid clinical hours in partnership with the Indiana Workforce Development Program. Wischmeyer and Love hope this provision sets students up for a pathway to a livable wage.

The goal is for graduates of the programs to work in the community to fill gaps in needed healthcare roles.

The programs are funded by grants from IU Health, United Way and the Hamilton County Health Department.

For more, visit trinityfreeclinic.org.

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From left, Trinity Free Clinic Deputy Director Cindy Love, Executive Director Mel Wischmeyer, dental assistant graduates Gheslane Mazzone, Angelique Tondje, Celina Ahlman and Juliana Simon and instructor Jennifer Ramsey. (Photos courtesy of Mel Wischmeyer)

About Trinity Free Clinic

Trinity Free Clinic, 1045 W 146th St., Suite B, Carmel, provides clinical medical services to the uninsured or underinsured in Hamilton County.

“We serve as a safety net clinic to veterans and seniors. Many of our patients are service workers. They are important to our community,” TFC Deputy Director Cindy Love said. “As a community we are only as healthy as our least healthy.”

The TFC facility houses six medical exam rooms, an on-site pharmacy, on-site lab, classrooms, dental facilities as well as an optometry room.

More than 300 volunteer medical workers provide basic medical, dental, and vision services. Specialty clinics for podiatry, physical therapy, oral surgery, hypertension, diabetes, allergy and asthma care are offered on a regular basis.

For the clinic schedule and services, visit trinityfreeclinic.org.