Georgetown Alumna Reenvisions Medical Care in Tampa, Founds Community-Based Clinic
Like many, Dr. Traci Thompson (C’96) had a rare moment of pause and an opportunity for reflection at the beginning of the pandemic. She decided it was time to give back. Dr. Traci’s House was born – a community-based organization providing health care and associated services to both uninsured and insured Tampa residents.
“We’re using a holistic approach to revitalize this community to achieve health equity and wellness so everyone can live their best life,” Thompson said. “The commitment to the community is our promise – ‘Better Health. Better Communities.’ We carry out that mission every day, one child and one family at a time.”
To best serve the community’s needs, Thompson realized, it was necessary to clearly identify them. She reviewed assessments from Tampa hospitals alongside data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Florida Department of Education. Taken together, they painted a grim picture – Tampa residents who struggled financially faced an uphill battle to attain even the most basic health care and support services.
Providing for the Whole Person
The services provided by Dr. Traci’s House start with necessary medical care but go beyond checkups to provide for the whole person.
Take, for example, a cooking class for individuals living with diabetes, taught by fellow alumnus Winoka Wendy Wilkes aka “Chef Wendy” (SFS’91). Funded by a grant from the American Diabetes Association and the Pfizer Foundation, the class provided patients with recipes, tools and strategies for taking control of their health at home. One patient had health indicators improve in a matter of weeks.
“After watching our cooking instructor, I found out a lot of the seasoning I’ve been using wasn’t healthy for me,” they said. “My doctor stated that she had never seen my lab work look as good as they did. I can say that was because of the education I received from the diabetes education class.”
For Thompson, classes like this are just one component of a holistic approach to individual and community health.
“Dr. Traci’s House is a community-inspired approach to building a healthier community from infants to older adults with key resources in their very own community to create a sustainable model for generational health and wellness,” she said.
To genuinely change a community, not just treat a symptom but address the cause, Thompson is working to bring together a slew of resources, from child care to living expense stipends that will meet the needs of those for whom the social safety net is not sufficient. At the center of this model is compassion for the individual.
“I have a phenomenal staff of dedicated providers and managers that welcome each patient like family,” Thompson explained. “We spend 45 minutes to one hour with each patient, whether it’s a new visit or a follow-up.”
For many patients, the care – if any – they’ve received in the past has been rushed, impersonal and pro forma.
“We take our time,” Thompson said. “We have seen a true need for health literacy efforts and spend the necessary time during each visit to review their history, explaining the why behind their medications and giving them a safe place to ask those questions they may have been too shy, embarrassed or rushed to ask.”
That person-to-person interaction is at the heart of what Thompson is trying to do and what she hopes can be accomplished in other impoverished communities across the country.
“The success of this model will allow other under-resourced communities to apply the lessons learned to build and expand its community development model to achieve measurable improvements in the areas of health, wellness and sustainability,” Thompson said.
From the stories of her patients, it’s clear that Thompson is having a profound impact on her community.
“Dr. Traci helped me through the difficult process of a loved one with renal failure,” one patient said. “She didn’t hesitate to take my calls late at night, to tell me of the symptoms I described to her or what the next process would be. She is very knowledgeable and patient and I could go on and on, but know the services Dr. Traci and her team provide are second to none.”
-by Hayden Frye (C’17)