The Pennsylvania Academy of Family Physicians (PAFP) has made two generous gifts of $25,000 each to support the St. Luke's Sacred Heart Family Medicine Residency Program and the St. Luke’s Rural Family Medicine Residency Program in Schuylkill County.
A Harrisburg-based nonprofit, PAFP and its Foundation are dedicated to advancing quality healthcare through advocacy, education, workforce development and commitment to the patients it serves.
PAFP’s Resident Community Health Impact Grant for the St. Luke's Sacred Heart Family Medicine Residency Program will establish a resident-led clinic within “Laundry on Linden,” a program aimed at addressing the health inequality that exists in Allentown. Laundry on Linden provides free laundry services to individuals and families in need, but the benefits extend far beyond laundry.
During the 90-minute laundry cycle, outreach services can establish a relationship and provide support and expertise to those in most need, including those who are homeless, in recovery or experiencing another life-altering situation. The residents will provide a regular presence with a medical van delivering healthcare education, while screening attendees for diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure in attempt to mitigate the healthcare disparities that exist within the community.
“From a family medicine perspective, we want to integrate ourselves as much as possible into the community that we serve,” says Daniel Gilbey, MD, PGY-2 Resident. “This grant will allow us to connect with our community and serve patients at a place where they are comfortable, whilst offering the residents a truly immersive experience to fully address the unique needs of our patient population and understand that our patients’ needs exist far beyond our clinic consultations.’’
The grant will not only fund the screening equipment required, but will also provide weekly, fresh produce to attendees, along with warm clothing in cold weather, sanitary packs and first aid equipment.
“This provides a unique opportunity for representation from our local Federally Qualified Health Centers look-alike residency training clinic,” says Rehab Tabchi, DO, faculty member of St. Luke's Sacred Heart Family Medicine Residency Program and Medical Director of Star Community Health Sigal Family Practice.
Dr. Tabchi explains that once a rapport is established in the community, patients will be offered continuity of care with the residents at follow-up appointments delivered at the clinic, where access to in-house social work, financial support and a plethora of additional support is available.
Meanwhile, the PAFP Resident Community Health Impact Grant for the St. Luke’s Rural Family Medicine Residency Program will allow it to purchase two telemedicine carts that will be instrumental in providing care to patients in Schuylkill County.
“This extremely generous grant is making a huge difference within the Rural Family Medicine Residency Program and the community,” says Kathleen Bannerman, MD, PGY-2 Resident – Miners Rural Family Medicine Residency.
Dr. Bannerman explains that the residency program is currently seeing patients at Servants to All and Schuylkill HOPE Center for Victims of Domestic Violence every Tuesday afternoon.
“The addition of the telemedicine carts purchased through the grant will allow us to provide care to these patients five days a week,” she adds.
The grant will cover the telemedicine units, hardware and software costs, IT's time to install and service them, and any upgrades that are needed for internet services. The telemedicine units – which are iPads on mobile platforms – will increase access to care for vulnerable patient populations in Schuylkill County.
Servants to All provides services to the unsheltered and those facing homelessness. These patients often need urgent medical attention for injuries or exposures. Many also need simple things, like medication refills.
“The wait to get into a primary care physician may be weeks,” says Dr. Gregory Dobash, MD, Associate Program Director – Miners Rural Family Medicine Residency. “These patients often go to the emergency department or urgent care, or they forgo care altogether. Frequently, they lack a device to conduct a virtual appointment.”
Clients of The Schuylkill HOPE Center for Victims of Domestic Violence often flee a dangerous situation without bringing necessities, like their maintenance medications.
“They frequently have unmet behavioral health needs,” Dr. Dobash says. “Some suffer traumatic injuries. In some cases, abusers have kept their victims' medications or denied them medical care altogether.”
St. Luke’s residents provide walk-in primary care services to clients of both institutions. Dr. Bannerman notes that at the beginning of the program, residents were seeing two or three patients each week.
“Then, the word spread that we were at these shelters weekly, and now, we see, on average, 10 to 15 patients per afternoon. One of the bonuses of going weekly is that we can follow up on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. This has allowed our practice to evolve from all walk-ins to walk-ins and follow ups. By collaborating with the shelters’ health advocates, our front desk staff and other medical providers, we are able to provide the patient high-quality healthcare.”
Dr. Bannerman says the experience the residents are gaining is invaluable as, among other skills, they are learning how to treat patients with limited resources and inadequate or no health insurance, and how to collaborate with other organizations to provide healthcare in a more cohesive and efficient manner to an underserved population.
“Tuesday afternoon has become my favorite part of the week,” Dr. Bannerman says.
“This grant is truly a team effort between St. Luke's, PAFP, and the community, and I am thrilled to be a part of the team.”