Powerhouse of Care
SIU Family and Community Medicine
builds new walls, breaks old barriers.
Written by Rebecca Budde
Photography by Jason Johnson
Publislhed in Aspects, Autumn 2016 (Vol. 39 No. 4)
Janet Albers, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine (FCM) dreamed of expanding on the Center for Family and Community Medicine’s adjoining grassy knoll with a beautiful building stocked with multi-specialty providers who help patients lead healthier, happier lives.
“We’ve gotten big really fast,” says Dr. Albers, who is going on her twentieth year at the School of Medicine. “We knew we needed to grow because we’d maxed out. Once you know you have the ability to expand and serve more people, how can you not?”
The Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) designation has allowed the Center for Family Medicine (CFM) to provide essential primary care health services for patients at all income levels. “We’ve grown so much since becoming an FQHC,” says Iris Wesley, CFM’s chief executive officer. “The ball got rolling and just hasn’t stopped – it’s been really exciting. We’ve more than doubled our staff and providers.”
Brilliant natural light floods the new space from the floor to ceiling windows. The new space’s soft hues and inspirational quotes provide a sense of warmth and comfort while the collaboration spaces for the providers allow the teams to complete their mission of caring for all aspects of the patient.
The Center provides the usual comprehensive attention one would expect from a Family and Community Medicine Department: well-child care and immunizations; obstetrical and gynecological care; screenings; diagnostic and procedural services; geriatric care, including nursing home and home visits. However, the Center has also expanded its programs and list of providers in order to continue what they’ve always emphasized: treating the whole person.
“What we know is that 80 percent of our health goes beyond medical factors,” Dr. Albers says. “Our health care team must take a population health approach to caring for patients. That means understanding how patients’ lifestyles and home environments can affect their health.”
To address these intertwined elements of health, on-site wraparound services include mental health, behavioral health, financial, legal, care coordinators, diabetes education and dietary education. The Center also provides services through referral agreements with dental care and optometry. Podiatrist John Shoudel, DPM, assistant clinical professor of orthopaedics, also helps those with diabetic and other foot problems.
Community health workers who venture into the neighborhoods nearby to educate and counsel patients have also become an invaluable part of the team. Their work has helped to bring more patients to the Center and keep them out of the emergency department (see aspects issue 39-3). “Fifty-three percent of the people these workers help don’t have a primary medical home, and we’re right in their backyard,” Wesley says.
Family Medicine continues to partner with others to provide the community with the best care. “We are currently collaborating with the public health departments in Morgan, Sangamon, Logan, Adams and Cass counties,” Wesley says. “Some of these partners provide dental services, and we are providing primary care services at some of these sites as well.” The Center also works hand in hand with Memorial Behavioral Health for behavioral health integration.
“It’s like family here,” says *Aubrey, a patient of FCM for more than 18 years. Aubrey’s “family,” consisting of Lauri Lopp, MD; certified diabetes educator Anne Daly, RDN, BC-ADM; and behavioral health provider Linda Snyder, MSW, have helped her learn how to manage her diabetes, lose weight and change some of her lifestyle habits to better her health. “There is a real cohesive team approach. They all take care of your whole being under one roof.”
Under the 340b Federal Drug Pricing Program, patients are better able to afford their medications to help them stay healthy. “It’s hard to keep someone healthy when they can’t afford their medication,” says John Kreckman, MD, assistant professor of FCM and CMO of the SIU Center for Family Medicine in Springfield. “All these wraparound services, programs and personnel allow us to take the best care of our patients.”
These FCM programs and services are receiving accolades as well.
The American Diabetes Association recently recognized FCM for its diabetes self-management education program. The Association’s Education Recognition Certificate assures that educational programs meet national standards. “Self-management education is an essential component of diabetes treatment,” said certified diabetes eductor Anne Daly, RD, who was instrumental in helping the CFM achieve this recognition. “We empower our patients by providing self-care skills that will promote better management of their diabetes treatment regimen.”
A key feature of the Center is that it serves as a hub of learning for medical students, physician assistant students, nurse practitioner students, pharmacy students and family medicine and psychiatry residents. “When residents and students learn in this environment, they are more likely to practice in underserved areas and incorporate these critical services to improve health outcomes,” says Careyana Brenham, MD, associate professor and FCM residency program director.
"We’ve grown so much since becoming an FQHC. The ball got rolling and just hasn’t stopped – it’s been really exciting." - Iris Wesley
To that end, the department has obtained a $2 million training grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration to support development of a new interprofessional curriculum that will address population health beginning in the Carbondale area and expanding to all sites. The program, called “Population Health and Systems Thinking,” will include a variety of SIU School of Medicine learners: physician assistant students, medical students and physicians in the family and community medicine residency program.
SIU Family Medicine is becoming a powerhouse of primary care for the entire region, not just Springfield. To address growing primary care clinical needs, SIU Family Medicine has collaborated with many communities. For example, SIU Family Medicine clinicians are providing prenatal care in Cass County, with telehealth child psychiatry soon to follow.
Residents of Morgan County now have another option for primary care – the Jacksonville SIU Center for Family Medicine through a partnership among SIU School of Medicine, Passavant Area Hospital and Morgan County Public Health Department. Passavant providers and health department medical staff will work on site at the Center while the Springfield FCM manages the Center.
Like its partner in Springfield, the Jacksonville Center will provide general primary care services for adults and children, as well as access by referral to behavioral health, psychiatry, optometry, podiatry, oral health and other specialty care. The Center also will be a site to train family medicine resident physicians on the Patient-Centered Medical Home Model.
Other communities include SIU Quincy Family Medicine, which became a new access point under the FQHC in July 2015; and Decatur is scheduled to follow suit. In collaboration with Logan County Health Department and Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital, a primary care and a dental clinic will soon be available.
Dr. Albers’ favorite quote is painted on the wall of the new clinic space: Health is wealth. “I think that sums it up. That’s what we want for all our patients, for their families. That make us unique. We specialize in the patient within the context of their family, culture, community and environment in order to help them be their healthiest selves.”
*name has been changed
Top Right Image Caption: Janet Albers, MD, and Iris Wesley, Family and Community Medicine CEO outside the new FCM facility.
Bottom Right Image Caption: Natural light, soft hues and modern design create an inviting space in the new facility.