Siloam Family Health Center was established in 1991 as a health care alternative with the mission of providing compassionate, affordable, high quality medical treatment for all of those who are uninsured in the Nashville Community, including refugees. Originally open for 2 hours on Saturday mornings and housed in 2 small apartments, the clinic has expanded and now occupies a new freestanding facility on Gale Avenue in Nashville. The clinic is open 45 hours a week and is staffed by more than 400 volunteers as well as a handful of employees. Though a faith-based entity at heart, volunteers of all faiths and backgrounds are welcome to serve Siloam’s patients, who come from over 100 different homelands.
In 1999, Dr. Al Powers, director at Vanderbilt Diabetes Center, began volunteering at Siloam to provide diabetes and endocrine care. Anne Brown, MSN, BC-ADM and Kathleen Wolff, MSN, BC-ADM, also staff of the Vanderbilt Diabetes Center, soon followed. Elsie Nason, RN, Dr. Mike Fowler and Dr. Alan Graber (recently retired from the Eskind Diabetes Clinic) joined the team a few years later. Currently, this group of EDC diabetes experts maintains a weekly evening clinic to provide care for Siloam patients who require specialty diabetes and endocrine care. Anne Brown notes that, “One of the good things about Siloam is the continuity it provides for our Vanderbilt Clinic patients who lose their health insurance. I have referred many of my patients there who have lost their health insurance and I know that even though I can no longer see them at Vanderbilt, they will continue to receive good, competent care.”
Sometimes the circumstances are more extreme. In December, 2007, arrangements were made for a 2-year old Iraqi child to receive emergency open heart surgery at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. Kathleen Wolff was asked to provide care to the child’s mother who had type 2 diabetes that required more attention and treatment. Since Siloam was already well-prepared to care for refugees from many other countries, she was best served by receiving her diabetes care at their weekly diabetes clinic. When the mother and child returned to Iraq, the child had a well-functioning heart and the mother was on more effective diabetes medication and had learned much about the ways she herself could control her diabetes.
Siloam clinicians are extremely grateful for the partnership as well. “It has been an incredible blessing to have such a fine array of clinicians available as volunteers to compliment the work of our primary care staff in caring for our diabetic patients, as well as those with other endocrine disorders,” notes staff internist Morgan Wills. The growing problem of obesity and type II diabetes in our country is definitely affecting the refugee and immigrant population as well—in some cases disproportionately so. To address this problem among Hispanic patients, a new level of partnership is emerging. This summer Siloam will be a community partner as Dr. Fowler and VMSII Luis Huerta survey Hispanic patients at Siloam to assess their level of understanding about diabetes. As part of his Emphasis Project, Luis hopes to develop culturally appropriate education modules that may be used in local churches and other faith-based settings to help stem the tide of this epidemic.
More information about Siloam is available on the web at www.siloamhealth.org.