During residency, one of my clinic patients was incarcerated and I struggled to coordinate his care as he bounced between prison and our county indigent health care system. This prompted me to do my Senior Resident Grand Rounds on Criminal Justice and Health, and I’ve been interested in the role the criminal justice system has as a part of the health care “safety net” as it pertains to the provision of health care for minority and low-income populations and the perpetuation of health disparities. This interest has led to my involvement in a number of organizations in this arena.
Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform (PfCJR) was founded in 2015 by some of my physician friends who were struck by the myriad of ways that negative encounters with the criminal justice system lead to detrimental health consequences. I now serve as one of their founding Board Members and am the Chairperson of the Research Committee. We firmly believe that changing the interaction between the criminal justice system and individuals of targeted populations will ultimately lead to improved health of targeted communities.
Transitions Clinic Network (TCN) is a national network of medical homes for individuals with chronic diseases recently released from prison. Founded on the idea that the people closest to the problem are also closest to the solution, each clinic that adopts the Transitions Clinic Program employs a community health worker (CHW) with a history of incarceration as part of the clinical team to assist individuals returning home from prison with a health re-integration into their lives and neighborhoods. While I was faculty at UAB, I served the TCN liaison for the Alabama Transitions Clinic that was funded through the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation Center award.
My involvement in TCN piqued my interest in the benefit of using Community Health Workers, and led to my involvement on the Board of Directors for ConnectionHealth, a registered 501c3 non-profit organization that trains community health workers (ConnectionHealth Partners). Over the last decade, research has shown the effectiveness of community health workers to promote health, reduce cost and improve the patient experience. Community Health Workers can be especially effective in managed care settings as trusted members of the care team that help bridge the gap between treatment in the clinic and living in the community. ConnectionHealth Partners are equipped with the best evidence-based training and disease management protocols to support clients where they are; always striving to help navigate the complicated and simplify the complex. ConnectionHealth is committed to community based support that reinforces the message and care instructions of the client’s healthcare team.
From 2013-2016, I served on the Jefferson County Board of Health and the Jefferson County Medical Society Board of Directors. This has provided enormous insight on the public health issues across the county. I’m particularly proud that our health department achieved five-year accreditation status this past year from the Public Health Accreditation Board–one of only 84 local health departments with this distinction as of December 2015. We’ve passed several resolutions, including those supporting municipal bans on smoking in public areas and measures to reduce harm from opiate drug abuse. We’ve also been actively engaged in Community Matters 20/20, a community engaged strategic planning process to identify the county’s public health concerns, strengths and assets for addressing concerns and collectively implementing strategies to improve community health and quality of life.
Also while in Birmingham AL, I served as the Medical Director for M-POWER Ministries Health Center. The M-POWER Health Center is the only free clinic in Jefferson County, Alabama, providing primary care services to patients suffering from chronic illnesses, as well as acute clinics and specialty clinics.
I consider the Society of General Internal Medicine (SGIM) my professional home. I’ve been a member since my internal medicine residency and look forward to engaging with my colleagues in academic internal medicine during our annual meetings. I am currently the co-chair for the Disparities Task Force, am the founder of the Criminal Justice and Health Interest Group, and a member of the Minorities in Medicine Interest Group.