Providing Top Treatment Together – Medical Collaboration in Lawrence
Collaboration within the health and medical community serving Lawrence is second nature, according to Rich Napolitano, senior vice president of external relations and chief development officer at the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center. ( Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the May/June 2015 issue of Merrimack Valley Magazine. )
It comes down to a shared mission to provide top-notch health care for all, which often involves a variety of committed medical professionals and quality services. A community of about 78,000 people and approximately 7 square miles in size, Lawrence is a densely populated urban area with a high percentage of residents living below federal poverty levels. Working together, the GLFHC and institutions such as Lawrence General Hospital are creating an environment in which they are able to provide care for all city residents, but at the same time are becoming the destination of choice for people from other communities seeking care.
Napolitano says that over the past 14 years in particular, the GLFHC has grown “exponentially” under the leadership of President and CEO Robert Ingala.
“Our numbers have grown from serving 27,000 in 2001 to 55,000 patients today,” Napolitano says. He attributes that growth to the center’s ability to keep up with the needs of the community.
GLFHC operates six clinical sites in Lawrence and Methuen, plus two school sites at Lawrence High School and Greater Lawrence Technical School. GLFHC’s predominant service is family medicine and primary care, with more than 100 clinicians on staff and a spectrum of specialized programs in areas such as alternative medicine, childhood obesity and addiction treatment. Each site, with the exception of the schools, has an in-house retail pharmacy that serves patients and non-patients. Doctors also travel to 13 area sites to provide care to the homeless. While GLFHC offers a robust roster of services, it relies on solid relationships with other institutions to fill the gaps where needed.
For example, at GLFHC’s New Balance Foundation Imaging Center, located at their Haverhill Street clinic, films are reviewed by personnel from the nationally-recognized radiology department at Lawrence General. The hospital is also home to one of GLFHC’s clinical sites, and it provides all lab services for GLFHC locations.
As a result, everyone, including low income families, has access to the technology and the expertise they might need.
Dianne Anderson, president and CEO of Lawrence General, says working together to serve the community with compassion is a legacy that’s been passed down throughout the history of the hospital.
“One of the unique things about the city of Lawrence is the incredible collaboration from a wide group of people and an incredible commitment and devotion,” Anderson says.
“We’re leading the community with partners to transform care and provide as much care as we can outside the hospital so that the hospital is a last resort. When given the right resources, we can help patients maintain and control their conditions, and keep them home.”
The Mayor’s Health Task Force, which was established in Lawrence in 2002, reflects this community mission. The task force addresses health and social justice factors affecting Greater Lawrence’s underserved low-income community, and promotes health equity.
Vilma Lora, the director of social justice initiatives at the YWCA of Greater Lawrence, serves as coordinator for the Mayor’s Health Task Force. According to its directives, she says, “The MHTF believes that the improvement of the socioeconomic factors that affect health are inextricably linked to economic and community development. One cannot be a success without the other in creating healthy communities.” According to Lora, the socioeconomic factors include unemployment/under-employment, low education, meaningful work and social support.
The MHTF serves thousands from the Spanish- and English-speaking communities through education, screenings, and links to medical services related to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, mental health, breast and prostate cancers, oral health, youth development, teen pregnancy and insurance enrollment.
The Greater Lawrence Family Health Center and Napolitano are members of the task force, as well.
As the center welcomes eight doctors this year as part of the Lawrence Family Medicine Residency program, Napolitano says he is more confident than ever that the city of Lawrence offers a commitment to community health care that is unmatched — and that’s attractive to doctors.
Established in 1994 the residency program was the first in the nation sponsored by a community health center, and it is currently part of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education’s four-year length of training study. This year GLFHC received 800 applications, according to Napolitano.
With agents of change from the medical community united in making top care available to everyone in Lawrence, it’s understandable that applications are on the rise. The many elements of community medicine at work in Lawrence, combined with their rigorous training and Spanish immersion programs, have helped to establish GLFHC and the Lawrence medical community’s reputation as a top destination for family medicine residency.
“A lot of our resident physicians go on to work in community medicine — a good number stay with us,” Napolitano says.