New Healthcare Partnership Seeks to Help the Underserved in Maricopa County

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Posted By on March 4, 2021

Three organizations are joining forces to transform healthcare for underserved populations in Maricopa County.

Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust is investing $10 million in a collaboration between Creighton University and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP) in Phoenix to provide improved access and quality of care to those most in need while growing skilled medical professionals for Arizona. The partnership is designed to reduce growing health disparities that disproportionately affect low-income populations and people of color.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the impact of failing to prepare for and respond to broad, unaddressed health inequities in our community,” said Mary Jane Rynd, president & CEO of Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust. “The need is urgent, and our response cannot wait. Now is the time for higher education, social services and philanthropy to join and use our collective capacity to create a healthier, more resilient future.”

The partnership will more deeply integrate SVdP’s Virginia G. Piper Medical Clinic into the Creighton Health Sciences – Phoenix Campus curriculum. Creighton faculty and third- and fourth-year medical students have volunteered monthly at the clinic for more than a decade, and the clinic will now serve as the primary teaching facility for first- and second-year medical students as well.

Medical, nursing, physician assistant, pharmacy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy faculty and students will work together to serve patients at a weekly clinic, using a team-based approach shown to improve patient outcomes and reduce healthcare costs.

“As Creighton health sciences students consistently rotate through the clinic, it is not only clinical education that is taking place, but an experience at the core of Jesuit education — cura personalis, or care for the whole person, physically, emotionally and spiritually,” said Dr. Randy Richardson, regional dean of Creighton University School of Medicine, Phoenix Campus.

The clinic’s infusion of health sciences students and physician faculty will increase access to preventative, acute and specialty care. It will also allow students to spend more time with physicians while learning to care for underserved patient populations, said Dr. John Anwar, medical director of the SVdP Virginia G. Piper Medical Clinic and assistant professor at Creighton University School of Medicine. “Our students will receive an education that is centered at the new frontier of care in medicine — at the place with the greatest need and the greatest opportunity for transformational change,” Anwar said. “They will understand, from the very beginning of their education experience, the inequities in the healthcare system and their role as professionals to serve and care for the most vulnerable.”

SVdP and Creighton’s strengths are well-suited to effect sustainable change. “The St. Vincent de Paul and Creighton partnership amplifies our ability to both provide critical healthcare to people who do not have access and to find solutions to greater health equity in our community,” SVdP associate CEO Shannon Clancy said. “People currently not receiving the services they desperately need will get the high-quality care they deserve, raising the bar for greater access to health care in Maricopa County.”

As the organizations navigate a new care model, they will continue to evaluate their strategies, developing new practices focused on reducing inequities in the healthcare system. A new Creighton School of Medicine role, the Virginia G. Piper Fellowship in Health Disparities, will conduct research and inform the partnership’s efforts to drive systemic change and patient-focused improvements in care.

“This forward-thinking approach to caring for the underserved and formation of compassionate health professionals is a perfect illustration of Creighton’s mission,” said University President the Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ, PhD. “The stability, dignity and hope we can offer patients at SVdP’s Virginia G. Piper Medical Clinic will touch countless lives, including physicians and health professions faculty and their students.”

Karen Werner

About Karen Werner

Karen Werner is the editor of Frontdoors Media. She is a writer, editor and media consultant. She has interned at The New Yorker, worked at Parents Magazine, edited five books and founded several local magazines. Her work has appeared in Sunset, Mental Floss and the Saturday Evening Post.