Like many other students at the Johns Hopkins University, Andrew came to Baltimore in order to participate in health care provision and research. His most significant educational experiences, however, did not take place inside of the world-renowned health care center that brought him to this city.
Rather, Andrew decided to work directly with the people who are the most disconnected from these places. He plans to address what he believes is Baltimore’s most pressing health concern: in a city full of high quality medical centers, why are so many people still suffering from easily preventable diseases?
The answer, Andrew believes, lies in the fragmentation of providers.
Working with homeless men and women at the Baltimore Rescue Clinic, Andrew Gaddis learned various ways to help those with no income find health care for their ailments and illnesses.
“What concerned me most is that as residents graduated from homelessness, they were no longer connected to these programs,” Gaddis says. “They can wind up with even fewer resources than when they were staying in the shelter.”
To address this problem, he decided to focus on low-income healthcare-seekers, specifically those in the Middle East Baltimore neighborhood right next to Johns Hopkins Hospital. Gaddis, alongside a team of students and community leaders, launched the Charm City Clinic, a free community-based health center. Gaddis will use his OSI-Baltimore Community Fellowship to build upon the success of the clinic
Based out of the Men and Families Center, a community center that has been serving its neighborhood for over fifteen years, the clinic provides screenings, case management, health education and community outreach.
“This is a neighborhood with a lot of history, and a lot of strength. Times are tough for a lot of the residents, however. The average household in this neighborhood is made up of two and a half people, and is bringing home about $15,000 a year,” Gaddis says. “They are barely making it.”
Because of their financial situation, many put off trying to find affordable health care for their ailments until problems such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease or severe dental conditions have spiraled out of control.
“They end up having to go to the emergency room because they think that’s their only option,” Gaddis says. “The people themselves are suffering, because obviously the ER is the wrong place to go for routine care. It’s also extremely expensive for hospitals to provide emergency care, so the providers are hurting too.”
What Gaddis found is that, with a little coordination, there are options available for the people he sees at the clinic.
“Baltimore City is a place that is filled with providers,” he says. “There’s Hopkins, Mercy, University of Maryland and Union Memorial hospitals, among others. The people just aren’t able to connect with them.”
So when Charm City Clinic opened a little more than a year ago inside the Men and Families Center in East Baltimore, it began as a health resource center, helping those individuals find affordable health services with local providers.
Gradually, the clinic began adding in necessary services, such as health education, health screenings, and hospital bill reconciliation. A major focus in the coming year will be education and empowerment of patients.
“We really want to work on helping our clients learn, helping them get invested in their own health,” Gaddis says. “We’re working to utilize existing social networks, equipping people to go into their communities and help ensure better health outcomes for others.”
And residents of the Middle East neighborhoods in and around the clinic seem to be doing just that, as evidenced by the growing numbers of patients showing up at the door.
“When we first started, we put up signs and tried to get the word out. Most of our patients were new patients. But what we’re starting to see is the majority of our patients, they don’t just see a sign; they’re being referred by their friends or relatives,” Gaddis says. “And we’re also seeing people following up, coming back to learn more, or coming back and volunteering to help get their neighbors insured. That’s spectacular for me. It’s showing us that we’re on the right path.”