UT Health residents help provide healthcare to uninsured Northeast Texans during 3-day outreach in Van
VAN – Over 300 uninsured East Texas residents received free medical care due to the efforts of resident physicians from UT Health Northeast and nursing students from The University of Texas at Tyler School of Nursing and Health Sciences.
The East Texas Medical Outreach (ETMO) lasted three days: from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, June 11, through Thursday, June 13, at the Van Junior High School in Van. Residents gave patients physical exams, vision and hearing tests, and immunizations, as well as blood pressure, glucose, cholesterol, and body mass index screenings.
“I could not be happier. Every aspect of my healthcare needs was met, including a mammogram. At no cost. Kudos to the UT Tyler nursing students and the UT Health physicians who are donating their time. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!” said one woman who came to the temporary clinic.
The resident physicians also gained something from the medical outreach.
“Participating in ETMO was very humbling. It was a pleasure to take care of men, women, and children who may not have otherwise had access to physicians or services like mammography, hearing and vision screenings, and dietary counseling,” said Sarah Low, MD, a family medicine resident.
Family medicine resident Amy Hinton, MD, agreed. “Many of the patients were overjoyed because they had lost all of their health insurance and had nowhere else to go. One woman started to cry because she was so grateful. It’s patients like this that remind you why you became a physician and how you can change someone’s life for the better,” Dr. Hinton said.
“In Northeast Texas, we have higher incidences of chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure and diabetes. And a higher percentage of people use tobacco, which also leads to chronic health problems,” said Dr. Jonathan MacClements, chair of the Department of Family Medicine at UT Health. He also is the Smith County Health Authority and a member of the Texas State Guard Medical Brigade.
“Our goal was to educate our patients about their health and then connect them with a healthcare provider that could be their medical home,” he said. Six resident physicians staffed the temporary clinic each day.
The residents, nursing students, the Texas Department of State Health Services, and the Northeast Texas Public Health District organized the effort.
Other participating organizations included the Texas Military Forces, the Piney Woods Regional Advisory Council, and Van Independent School District.
State Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Canton, a member of the Texas State Guard, also participated in the effort.
“This effort is tremendous, and the work that this group does has such a positive impact on the communities they touch that I am honored to welcome them to House District 2,” Rep. Flynn said.
Dr. MacClements said that many people who live in rural areas of Northeast Texas don’t have health insurance or the money to pay out-of-pocket for a doctor’s visit. They also may live far away from the nearest doctor or clinic and often lack reliable transportation to get there.
“We have to find ways to deliver medical care in a more cost-effective way, so we can provide as much quality healthcare as possible given our limited resources,” he said. We also need to train more doctors and healthcare providers for these rural areas, Dr. MacClements added.
Besides Dr. Low, outreach participants were family medicine residents Vaughn Harris, MD; Amber Higgs, MD; Will Dreiss, MD; Amy Hinton, MD; Sarah Low; Vinh Mai, MD; Amy Newton, DO; Stephanie Tyo, MD; and Chad Weldon, DO.
Occupational medicine resident Shamarik Blue, MD, MS, and internal medicine residents Loui Gatdula, MD; Nevin Dhingra, MD; and Christian Reyna, DO, also participated.
The family and occupational medicine residency programs are located on the UT Health campus; the internal medicine residency program is located at Good Shepherd Medical Center in Longview.
For more than 60 years, UT Health Northeast has provided excellent patient care and cutting-edge treatment, specializing in pulmonary disease, cancer, heart disease, primary care, and the disciplines that support them. UT Health Northeast’s annual operating budget of $138.8 million represents a major economic impact of over $347 million for the Northeast Texas region. Since 2002, scientists in the Center for Biomedical Research have been awarded more than $120 million in research dollars. As the academic health science center for Northeast Texas, its graduate medical education programs – with residencies in family medicine and occupational medicine – provide doctors for many communities throughout the region and beyond. UT Health Northeast is also the program sponsor of the residency program in internal medicine at Good Shepherd Medical Center in Longview.