Expanding the Possibilities of Health

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By: Susan Terry, MD

When I was the Executive Medical Director of the University Health Care Community Clinics, I received waves of requests for an urgent care center at our new (at the time) South Jordan Health Center. When medically urgent care was needed after 7:00 PM, or on weekends, our patients went to the hospital emergency department. Parents would bring in a screaming child with an earache at 8:00 PM and be charged a $100 co-pay. Our providers, staff, and management all knew we could do better for our patients.

Our team of leaders started planning, meeting, and advocating for urgent care services at South Jordan. And when the implementation of that goal weaved its way through the necessary approval processes, we persisted! The more we heard from our patients, the more urgent we became about making their pleas for an expanded health care service a reality.

In December we opened the urgent care center in South Jordan. We hadn’t finalized the billing questions or the scheduling questions, but we were determined not to make our patients make one more unnecessary $100 co-pay.

As primary care providers, we find a way to make things happen to meet our patients’ health care needs.

That is one example of what expanding the possibilities of health means to me. There are three qualities that enabled our clinic team to expand the possibilities of health for our South Jordan patients. These are the same qualities the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine is intentionally fostering and developing.

First, the department keeps the patient at the center of every decision we make. Whether we are asking where to invest our resources, how to structure our course offerings, what areas/populations need more access to care, or how to create meaningful action in response to the evidence generated from our research, the people we serve are always our central and top priority. Our unending question is ‘how can this decision help expand the possibilities of health for our patients, for our community, for our world?’

Second, the department truly values the benefits of diversity. Our four divisions, Physician Assistant (PA), Occupational and Environmental Health (OEH), Public Health (PH), and Family Medicine (FM), all have a wonderfully unique knowledge-base and perspective. We make brilliant solutions that none of us would have discovered separately when we access these diverse perspectives and wisdom.

Our FM residents who are seeing patients from rural mining towns can access environmental health curriculum from our experts in OEH. Our PA students can access timely research on the social determinants of health from our PH faculty so their practice can help both their individual patient as well as the community.

These interdisciplinary connections are nurtured during our students’ and residents’ educational programs, but they don’t end there. Once you know the amazing value of collaborative problem solving, our alumni keep returning to our professionals to help make brilliant decisions in their practices and settings.

Third, together, we find a way to make things happen. There are many barriers that diminish the possibilities of health. It is a difficult and lengthy process to move evidence-based practice into everyday care. Underserved communities are less likely to trust care provided by individuals who lack a thorough understanding of, and appreciation for, their unique culture. Promoting health and prevention, and delivering primary care do not pay for themselves – directly and obviously – but we know these services offer the greatest benefits to our communities and patients.

At the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, we are dedicated to eliminating those barriers, one at a time, and discovering how expansive the possibilities of health can be. We know the solutions are complicated and elusive, but we keep the patient at the center of our work, access our diversity of thinking, and we don’t stop until we get the job done.

Come discover with us what’s beyond the barriers. Help us see how far we can expand health for our patients, our community, and our world!

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Susan Terry, MD,  is a board-certified internal medicine physician. Dr. Terry’s professional interests include women’s health and preventive medicine. In her leisure time, she enjoys hiking and reading.

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