Innovative partnership brings comprehensive medical care to Norfolk students

Christine Matson, MD
Christine Matson, MD

Students at Norfolk's Booker T. Washington High School will be the first beneficiaries of a cutting-edge partnership to bring comprehensive medical services to a Student Care Center housed at the school. The center will be funded by a grant from Optima Health and will be operated in partnership with EVMS, Norfolk Public Schools, the City of Norfolk, United for Children and United Way of South Hampton Roads.

United for Children is a public-private partnership — in which EVMS participates — aimed at breaking the cycle of poverty by driving educational success for children. Its leaders saw an opportunity to bring medical services to Booker T. Washington High School to support students in their efforts to graduate on time. The center will be the first of its kind in Hampton Roads, designed to offer the comprehensive services of a family physician's office in a clinical space inside the school.

EVMS' M. Foscue Brock Institute for Community and Global Health and EVMS Family and Community Medicine are championing the collaborative project within the medical community.

"The hope is that we can keep the students in school, address issues that affect their health and education, communicate with their primary-care physicians and avoid unnecessary visits to emergency departments," says Cynthia Romero, MD (MD '93), Director of the Brock Institute, who notes that the full range of services will be implemented in phases. "Ultimately, we hope that students receive necessary and preventive care, remain healthier and thus achieve higher graduation rates."

The center is set to open this fall with an advanced-practice clinician serving student patients two half-days per week. As demand for services increases, the center could expand to as many as five half-days per week, says Christine Matson, MD, Professor and Chair of Family and Community Medicine. Dr. Matson will oversee the center initially, reviewing records and providing consultation for the clinician on site.

Eventually, EVMS hopes to provide opportunities for physicians in its family medicine residency to be part of the team at the Student Care Center.

"This is a way for us to demonstrate our commitment to our community," Dr. Matson says. "It will be an opportunity for our resident physicians to see through the students' eyes those experiences that impair or support health, and to see how they can contribute beyond their office walls."