The Kraft Center for Community Health increases access to care for patients, inspires a new generation of community health clinicians through its Fellowship and Practitioner Programs

Enhancing access to excellent health care for all of our neighbors is one of the most important elements of the mission of Partners Community Health. “We believe that in order for the most vulnerable patient populations in our community to have high quality care, we must fortify and sustain our community health centers. We will be most successful if we recruit and retain our finest clinicians and leaders to work in community settings,” says Matt Fishman, Senior Vice President of Partners Community Health.

Partners’ Kraft Center for Community Health is working to address health disparities through its Fellowship and Practitioner programs that foster enduring innovation and leadership in community health. The Kraft Center, established in 2011 at Partners HealthCare by a generous gift from the Kraft family, is developing a national model that connects the resources of academic health care to the community setting by nurturing new career paths for the next generation of community health leaders and providers. Moreover, the model will facilitate closer working partnerships between academic medical centers and community health centers that will improve care in both settings while informing research to improve outcomes for the populations they serve.

“We will create a generation of young people who will see careers in community health as exciting opportunities to learn, to partner and to lead in an arena that is at the heart of health care reform and social justice,” says Derri Shtasel, MD, MPH, Executive Director of The Kraft Center. “Academic medicine has been a magnet for magnificent and inspired young people. The Kraft Center’s Fellowship and Practitioner programs will help direct this energy and talent to community health centers to enhance their great value and effectiveness in providing superb care to the communities they serve.”

Fellows Dedicated to Making a Difference in the Community -- Spotlight on Joseph Joyner, MD

Dr. Joseph Joyner with a patientJoseph Joyner, MD, a member of the first class of Kraft Center Fellows, says he hopes his time at The Kraft Center will allow him to assume a new role: “health care problem solver.”

The Kraft Fellowship in Community Health Leadership is a two-year program to prepare a new generation of physician leaders who will contribute to the field of community health and lead the development of new models of collaboration between academic medicine and community health centers. The Kraft Center provides educational debt repayment for Fellows to insure that the very best trainees see work in Community Health Centers as a compelling career path without the added worry of financial hardship.

“I want to tackle the most important challenges of community medicine to improve health and health care within our communities, from every angle,” says Joyner. For him, that means researching larger, systemic problems within the health care system and continuing to see and treat patients.

“When The Kraft Center leadership says that they want to train us to be leaders, they really mean it, and they mean that they will allow us to become almost any type of leader that we would want to be in this field," says Joyner.  "That could mean becoming a leading patient advocate, heading up a health care organization, becoming a policy maker, or taking leadership in research. Regardless of the path you take, The Kraft Center provides the tools and the mentorship and pushes you to develop that specific skill set that you’re looking for.” Joyner is doing his fellowship at the MGH Chelsea HealthCare Center in Chelsea, MA.

Joyner is one of five Kraft Center Fellows who started in July 2012 with the launch of the Center. Their  fellowships will allow them to develop their own scholarly projects, gain a degree from the Harvard School of Public Health, engage in seminars with Kraft Center faculty and other fellows, and practice in a community setting. Fellows are required to make a minimum three-year commitment to community health upon completion of the fellowship.

In addition to seeing patients, Joyner is working on a project to improve addiction and substance abuse care in Chelsea. The Chelsea community has identified this as among its most important public health issues.

“We’re developing a pathway where patients who come in, regardless of the reason, are screened for substance use and then sent for the appropriate treatment if they need it,” says Joyner. Appropriate care may include seeing specialists, referral for rehabilitation, health coaching, or more care from a primary care physician.

Practitioners Gear Up for Leadership Roles in Community Health -- Spotlight on Marguerite Beiser, NP-BC

Marguerite Beiser, who has been a nurse practitioner at Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program for the past five years, is one of 13 nurse and physician leaders who began the Practitioner Program in July 2012. The Kraft Practitioner Program is a two-year program to recruit and retain motivated physicians and masters-prepared nurses in community-health centers and to equip them to take on leadership roles within their organizations. As with the Fellowship program, Practitioners are eligible for education debt repayment.

Beiser particularly enjoys the program’s monthly intensive learning days, interacting with expert speakers who have presented on topics ranging from community improvement planning to what national and local health care policy means for community health centers. But one of The Kraft Center's biggest benefits is simply interacting with other terrific clinicians who are practicing in community settings, she says.

“One of the coolest things about the Kraft program is that we meet once a month with clinicians and colleagues doing similar projects at their health centers,” says Beiser. “Being able to bounce ideas off one another and collaborate with a bunch of critical thinkers who are trying to solve important problems is really helpful. There’s no other place to get that unique opportunity.”

All Practitioners and Fellows are required to develop a unique project with the community health centers where they work.  Beiser is performing a community health assessment for patients with Hepatitis C, a major health problem for her homeless patient population. She finds it particularly helpful to learn from the experiences of her Kraft colleagues at other venues. “There’s a doctor in Lawrence who is trying to get kids to walk to school to improve pediatric obesity. So his focus is very different than mine but trying to figure out how to work with a patient population and assess their needs is very similar.”

Future plans

Although The Kraft Center has been up and running for only six months, its long-term aim is to influence the field of community health on a national scale, says Shtasel, who is also Director of the Division of Public and Community Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. The Kraft Center model offers a unique blend of education, peer learning, and actual clinical practice. In addition to hands-on experience, the Center includes an online, peer-to-peer virtual learning community that fits easily into Practitioner and Fellows’ schedules, and does not require geographic proximity.  It’s an approach that lends itself to implementation in other regions, and the Kraft Center intends to make its ‘lessons learned’ and other resources available to community health centers and academic programs nationwide.

“This program is so important because it’s about a long-term strategy to promote health care access and health equity.  We are doing so in partnership with people and organizations who have great experience and demonstrated talent in this work and who have been successfully committed to this mission for generations,” says Shtasel, who considers it ‘a privilege and an honor to lead the Kraft Center’.

That sentiment rings true for Beiser, who thinks that one of the biggest values of the Kraft Center is its ability to create relationships between community health centers and academic medical centers. “I love working in the setting that I do and we need more people to work in community health. Hopefully this makes people more aware of how valuable what we’re doing is and that you can have an exciting and sustainable career in this area.”

Learn more about The Kraft Center at www.kraftcommunityhealth.org.

 

About the Kraft Center

Learn more about the Kraft Center for Community Health from their website, www.kraftcommunityhealth.org.

 
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