National, state, and county leaders learned about the Mason and Partner Clinics, which prepare students to serve vulnerable populations and increase access to care for marginalized communities.
Community partnerships and community-based care play an integral role in addressing the growing shortage of health care workers and the increasing demand for low-cost or free care among vulnerable populations across the Commonwealth of Virginia. At a shelter for unhoused individuals in Woodbridge, Mason and Partners (MAP) Clinic staff work alongside the Department of Social Services and the Prince William County Health Department to deliver care and educate students.
On Thursday, August 24 a delegation of state and local leaders visited the Mason and Partners Clinics to discuss how the MAP Clinics’ network of 10 clinics in Fairfax and Prince William counties helps serve underrepresented communities.
The delegation included: U.S. Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger (VA - 7th District), Senator Jeremy McPike (VA - 29th District); Delegate Elizabeth Guzman (VA - 31st District), and Woodbridge District Supervisor, Margaret Franklin.
"The MAP Clinics are important partners in the communities we serve. The unique bridge-care model and co-location in places such as shelters address community gaps in service,” said Cheryl Oetjen, Interim Director of George Mason’s School of Nursing. The MAP Clinics are offered by the George Mason University College of Health and Human Services and School of Nursing.
“We provide care for vulnerable populations here in the community – delivering services – such as treating acute and chronic conditions and monthly preventative health screenings –that they might not otherwise receive. In addition, students’ clinical opportunities at the MAP Clinics prepare the next generation of nurses, social workers, informaticists, and nutritionists to work with marginalized populations. This reduces the stigma and increases the likelihood of students caring for vulnerable populations throughout their careers," said Rebecca Sutter, Professor and Director of the MAP Clinics explained.
MAP Clinic staff discussed the importance of Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grants to fund on-going curriculum development and training so Mason students are prepared to serve marginalized communities. MAP Clinics play a critical role in increasing access to care and linking clients to community systems of support for ongoing care, and helping patients navigate the health care system.
The delegation also examined the robust telehealth capabilities that the MAP Clinic expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic. The MAP Clinic shelter site has had 428 telehealth visits over the past year providing acute and chronic disease education and management including access to needed medications. Federal funding for telehealth has grown since 2020 to meet growing demand for access.
"We met with undergraduate and graduate students [at the MAP Clinic] who have hands-on experience while pursuing their degrees. I believe this is a win-win for them, but also for our most vulnerable residents while we have a shortage of healthcare professionals in our area. Everyone deserves access to health care and the MAP Clinic is helping all vulnerable residents. Thank you for all that you do," said Delegate Guzman. Guzman expressed her on-going commitment to helping find a permanent location and on-going funding for the MAP Clinic to help more individuals in need.
“The MAP Clinics’ impact reinforces the role of partnerships in serving the region and meeting the changing needs of the health workforce. The College continues to recruit, train, and graduate faculty and students who are committed to health equity and increased access to care,” said Dean Melissa Perry.
Since starting the shelter-based clinic in Woodbridge, the MAP Clinic has seen an increase in the number of clients who advocate for themselves, utilize Clinic services, and request appointments. There has been a 40% increase in MAP Clinic service utilization from 2021 to 2022. Over the last two years, the Clinic has provided care for 543 patients and have documented a 69% reduction in emergency room visits for shelter clients.
College of Health and Human Services faculty and staff present at the meeting included:
- Melissa Perry, Dean, College of Health and Human Services
- Cheryl Oetjen, Interim Director of the School of Nursing
- Rebecca Sutter, Professor and Director of the MAP Clinics
- Mary Righi, Operations Coordinator
- Samba Pathak, Operations Support
- Shanti Chang, Assistant Professor of Nursing
- Jennifer McKee, Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) MAP Clinic Graduate Research Assistant, Shelter lead
- Grace Stover, Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) MAP Clinic Graduate Research Assistant, Shelter lead
- Brian Longo, Bachelor of Science, Nursing and Community Health student