For a group of third-year family medicine residents, a proposed GraceMed clinic on the south side of Wichita will be a chance to live and practice within a community.
“We think that Christ would want us to love our neighbors as ourselves,” said Drew Posey, a third-year Via Christi family medicine resident originally from the Houston area who moved to Planeview last year.
“Not only to help them in physical ways, but in spiritual ways because when you treat a patient, you miss things if you’re not touching their heart and their soul, too.”
Posey is part of the group of residents who plan to work together at the new $7.5 million clinic GraceMed plans to build on three acres at the Richard A. DeVore South YMCA, 3405 S. Meridian.
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The location in south Wichita is in what health care providers call a “health care desert,” saying the area is underserved and residents there do not have easy access to health care.
Planners estimate 17,000 people per year will be served at the clinic, which will be on land donated by the YMCA.
“It’s a terribly underserved area,” said David Sanford, CEO of GraceMed. “I would say that not just for uninsured folks or people on Medicaid, but even for people that have private insurance. They have to travel long distances to get to an existing health clinic.”
The physicians – Posey, Justin Morgan, Christa Morgan, Nicholas Tomsen and Patrick Allen – have a vision to both work and live in south Wichita, Sanford said.
“They really want to make a difference in that community,” Sanford said. “With GraceMed being a Christ-centered clinic, these are young folks that want to use the platform of health care to be able to share the love and compassion of Jesus Christ with those they will be serving.”
GraceMed is currently looking for major donors in order to complete the project, Sanford said.
The idea for the residents to all practice together and support each other with international missions came after Justin Morgan heard a lecture from a representative of Christ Community Clinic in Memphis, Tenn. The lecturer introduced Morgan and others to Dave Sanford at GraceMed, who encouraged them to work with the underserved in Wichita.
About a year ago, Morgan said he and the other residents got in touch with Sanford to ask about any opportunities he might know of where they could all work at the same clinic and he mentioned the plans for the future south YMCA location.
“We all have similar interests and passions and it was unique that we’re all on the same page,” said Justin Morgan.
“It seems like everything is coming together. We just appreciate the YMCA, GraceMed and Via Christi giving us the opportunity to live our dreams and work with the underserved.”
There are many benefits to living in the same area as patients, Posey said.
“Learning how to communicate better with them and it allows me to be a normal person with people that I care about instead of ‘Here are some people I see at the clinic and I’m a doctor,’ ” he said.
“We just want to be in a community with people. I don’t know how effective it’s going to be, but our hope is that in taking a step of faith good things will happen. We feel like the Lord is leading us to do this, but however much we get to know people or whatever happens I believe it will be God that is ultimately the person that does the good works. We’re just kind of his hands and feet.”
Several of the physicians have applied for Via Christi’s international fellowship program from the summer of 2014 to the summer of 2015, which is when Sanford says they hope to have the clinic completed.
Posey has applied for the fellowship and says it prepares residents to be competent in tropical medicine and other low-resource settings. He has previously spent time in Kenya and Chad and thinks the fellowship will tie in well with future work at the GraceMed clinic.
“We want to support missions and we want that to be a core aspect of the clinic as well,” Posey said.
“A lot of us plan on doing international work in the future as well. Whether that’s working a little here and working some there, or supporting some other people to go, that’s going to be an important part of what we do.”
Services at the clinic will include prenatal care, pediatric care, geriatrics, optometry, in-house pharmacy and a basic lab. It also plans to have behavioral health consultants “embedded” with the primary care providers. Additionally, plans include an urgent-care center to help prevent unnecessary trips to the emergency room.
The 30,000-square-foot facility will have 36 medical exam rooms for up to 12 health-care providers, Sanford said.
Plans also call for 12 dental operatories for three full-time dentists and hygienists and two optometric lanes for one or two optometrists.
“It would be daunting to fulfill the entire medical need of the area,” Posey said. “But I think it’s a step in the right direction.”
The main clinic will be supported by four smaller, school-based clinics that GraceMed also is building. Because it’s being built in a “health care desert,” the name of the venture is Project Oasis.
“Project Oasis is really a system of clinics to address the health care deserts in south Wichita,” Sanford said.
GraceMed is currently building a school-based clinic at Oaklawn Elementary in Derby, which will be done in the fall. It hopes to have construction completed at Jardine Middle School by next February.
It is still fundraising for clinics at South High School and West High School. GraceMed received $500,000 in federal grants for each of the school-based clinics.