Dr. Danielle Williams joined ChesPenn as a Family Medicine physician at our Eastside health center in September 2022. She had heard good things about us from the staff at the Health Federation of Philadelphia and was sold on ChesPenn when she visited Eastside and met CEO Susan Harris McGovern and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Letitia O’Kicki. “I liked the fact that ChesPenn has multiple locations and has grown over time. It felt like there was stability and a vision for the organization – something that was growing and that I could be a part of.” The team at Eastside also helped win her over. She was impressed by the emphasis on patient satisfaction, and she was excited about the support staff who complement the care provided by the medical and dental providers. “For example, if I see something going on with a patient, we have social workers who can help with mental health challenges or with resources the patient may need.”
Dr. Williams first became interested in medicine when she was a teen. Her mother was a nurse and she saw how satisfied she was with her work. She remembers that “Mom felt real pride in what she did. When other things in her life were difficult, her work helped sustain her.” However, she didn’t originally plan to go into direct patient care. Despite an opportunity to shadow physicians in college, she chose to go into breast cancer research after graduation. She enjoyed the work but ultimately found it isolating. She craved contact with people and decided to go to medical school. Her first rotation was in family medicine and “It clicked. I was happy. I liked the residents and I liked the diversity of patients and diagnoses. I could help a patient manage a chronic disease and then have a gynecology visit and then see kiddos. No day is the same as the last. That’s what keeps me excited.”
Building trust and relationships with patients is Dr. Williams’ passion. Her work with one patient has been especially inspiring to her. When the patient first came to her, he had been in prison for 30 years. During his incarceration he had come to distrust physicians, but during his first visit with Dr. Williams, he somehow sensed that she was listening to him. He told her his entire life story during that visit. He appreciated that she treated him like a person – not a product of the system or his past. From that point on, he was willing to do whatever she recommended. He completed all the cancer screenings she prescribed. Together, they addressed old health issues that had been neglected for years. “My approach is I want people to feel human. You’re not your disease process, you’re not your past or where you live or how much money you make. None of that matters – just what hurts and how we can help.”
Looking to the future, Dr. Williams will be transferring from Eastside to our Coatesville health center in February. In the coming years she hopes to be able to expand on her skills, explore leadership opportunities, and help ChesPenn build partnerships that will take primary care beyond the walls of our health centers and out into the community. We are excited to have her join the Coatesville staff and help realize the vision for growth that drew her to join the ChesPenn team.
This year, ChesPenn is celebrating our 50th Anniversary. In 1973, Dr. Rekha Yagnik, a young pediatrician who had just completed her residency, opened The Children’s Clinic of Chester and Vicinity in a double-wide trailer at the corner of 7th and Tilghman Streets with one nurse and one receptionist to assist her. In 1983 we became ChesPenn Health Services, added adult medical care and dental services, and were awarded FQHC status.
Over the 50 years since that first trailer, we have expanded to three health centers across Delaware and Chester Counties, and we now serve over 15,000 adults and children who would not have access to healthcare without us. We are able to celebrate this wonderful milestone through the work of ChesPenn employees and Board Members past and present, the generosity of donors and community foundations, and most important, the families who have entrusted their wellbeing to us. We can’t overstate our gratitude.
While we are proud of our history, we are also looking to the future with plans for growing our capacity to serve and we are developing innovative new approaches to care. With that in mind, the theme for our anniversary is “50 years of Caring Is Only the Beginning.”
We invite you to celebrate 50 years of caring for the community with us throughout the year. On June 9, we will be dedicating the building at our Eastside location in Dr. Yagnik’s memory. On September 29, we will host a night of magic, music and memories at our Only the Beginning Anniversary Celebration. For sponsorship information on our Celebration, click on the image below.
Stay tuned for more information. and thank you to everyone who has supported us on this epic journey!
January is National Cervical Cancer Month and it’s a good time to focus on the importance of cervical cancer prevention. The bad news about cervical cancer is that in its early stages there are typically no symptoms. The good news is that with the HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccine, it’s largely preventable. And regular screening for HPV and Pap tests can detect precancerous conditions when treatment is likely to be highly successful.
First, if you or your child is between 9 and 26, the HPV vaccine is an important tool for prevention. Some adults up to 45 years old may also decide to get the vaccination after speaking with their doctor.
Next, be sure to get screened annually, even if you’ve had the vaccine, beginning at age 21 and until you are 65. The recommendation for most women is to be screened every 3 years, or 5 years if you have both HPV and PAP screening and both results are negative. After 65, women with no history of abnormal Pap tests or cervical cancer can consult with their physician about the need for further screening.
During the pandemic, many women put off getting screened because they didn’t want to risk COVID-19 exposure or had difficulty getting an appointment. Over the past two years, ChesPenn has worked with the American Cancer Society to catch our patients up on cancer screenings, including screening for cervical cancer. Our clinicians have also strongly encouraged parents to keep up with their children’s well child visits and immunizations. In addition, adults have also been encouraged to stay current with all recommended immunizations.
The experience of one of our new patients brings home the importance of both HPV vaccination and timely screening. In April, Christina (not her real name) came to ChesPenn as a new patient. She received a Pap test and screening for HPV, which revealed that she had HPV. Dr. Kimberly Arkebauer, our OB/GYN provider, performed a colposcopy (a procedure that allows detailed examination of the cervix) and recommended a loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP), an outpatient procedure that removes potentially cancerous cells from the cervix. Christina had recently immigrated from South America and was uninsured.
Christina met with DaNesha Mack, our Complex Care Team Lead, who helped her apply for insurance and helped her apply for emergency medical assistance. The LEEP procedure was performed and determined that Christina did not have cervical cancer. Because of her HPV status and the presence of some abnormal cells, Christina will have a follow-up Pap and colposcopy to ensure she stays healthy. Our hope is that in the future other women can avoid the kind of scare Christina had to endure by getting vaccinated and keeping up with their Pap screenings.
Dequacia Catlin is a nursing student in her senior year at Lincoln University. In 2022, she received an email from the university inviting her to apply for an internship with Americorps’ Public Health Nursing Fellowship. She was selected and placed at ChesPenn’s Center for Family Health at Coatesville in October.
Dequacia remembers that her interest in nursing goes back 10 years. “When I started in community college I majored in criminal justice, but it didn’t feel like my niche. In 2012 I took a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) course and when we had our clinicals I liked it. I started working at the hospital as a CNA.” Later she went on to enroll in Lincoln University’s Bachelors program in nursing.
“In the beginning my academic experience was a little tough. You start with the prerequisites and then you’re thrown into this program where you are required to critically think. But as I learned and did some tutoring, my grades got better.” Her grades were critical to her success. Lincoln requires a B average to remain in the nursing program. She shared that, “ I’ve been on the Dean’s List every semester. I’ve been really grateful to Lincoln University because they push their students.” They push us to learn clinical reasoning and judgement.” She’s also enjoyed the friendship and support of the staff. “ChesPenn has been really great to me. I’ve learned things. I really like it. I can learn here.”
Dequacia has encountered surprises and some challenges along the way. She’s learned a lot about what it means to provide care in a vulnerable community. “Some things have surprised me as far as interacting with the patients. Just seeing the diverse community that comes here – no matter who they are or whether they speak English or not we’re able to communicate with them and give them the best care possible. I really love that ChesPenn is able to relate to the patients. They really trust the staff – the front desk staff are so open. That makes a difference in a person’s life. I feel that ChesPenn goes beyond to make the patient feel like a person. In other places I’ve seen the patient is more like a number, but here, they know their name, their children, their family.” She also acknowledged the challenge of contacting patients who often rely on prepaid phones or who may take time to get back to us.
An avid traveler, Dequacia has visited countries in Latin America and the Caribbean and has studied in Ghana. In her travels, she’s seen the impact of health disparities in in the regions she has visited. Her experience has inspired her ambition to pursue a career in public health. And she has very specific goals – first, to work at the county level in health and human services while she works on a master’s degree in public health, then a role at the CDC and on to the World Health Organization.
Even Dequacia’s leisure time is dedicated to community service. She belongs to Chi Eta Phi Nursing Sorority. When she’s not in school she often volunteers in the community.
ChesPenn nurse Kenisha Parks has served as Dequacia’s mentor at ChesPenn. She has been impressed with the Americorps nurse internship program and especially with Dequacia. “You don’t run across those kind of students all the time” she commented. “ The patient comes first with her always. She’s going to go a long way.” We’re proud to be part of her journey.
Alex Kocsik can’t remember the exact moment she decided on a career in healthcare, but by age 13 she knew she would become a doctor. She volunteered as a Candy Striper in high school and simply continued her career path from there. She liked the stepwise trajectory from college to medical school to residency. It gave her a clear goal to work toward at each stage of her education.
Going into medical school, she could see herself choosing any field of medicine but primary care. It seemed generic to her. But in her third year rotation in medical school at Crozer she spent four weeks at ChesPenn’s Upper Darby health center. Alex remembered about that time that “It clicked in an instant. I would go home each day and feel good about the work I did. The days went by faster. I felt that I could make an impact and was connecting with people. What I didn’t realize about myself was that it wasn’t just the medicine – it was the human aspect of medicine that I wanted and family medicine makes that very easy.”
Now, in her first year of residency, Alex is a part of Crozer’s Family Medicine Residency Program and will be spending even more time at our Upper Darby site. Her love of patient-centered care will serve her and her patients well. Alex is keenly aware of the challenges faced by patients living in poverty. She understands that, for example, prescribing a medication or referring her patient to a specialist they can’t afford can be a disservice. Too often, patients are shamed for social determinants of health that are not in their control. Building a relationship based on an understanding of the patient’s needs and limitations is far more likely to result in a better health outcome. Patients begin to unlearn much of their dread of visits where they feel blamed for their poor health.
According to Alex, “There is nothing like connecting with somebody who previous to you was afraid of the medical world, or had negative encounters and getting to introduce them to what good medicine can look like and what patient-centered medicine can look like. I’ve had so many encounters where at the end the patient said ‘Oh that wasn’t so bad’.”
One of her first patient encounters at Upper Darby stands out in Alex’s memory. She saw a mother and daughter who were 80 and 50 respectively. They had multiple comorbidities – high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and the mom had some additional chronic illnesses. They were out of all their medications and hadn’t seen a doctor in years. She remembers, “Even as a student I was able to spend some time with them, refer them to the doctors they needed for specialty care, get their prescriptions filled, and reassure them that there was somebody there to help them. At that moment, I knew this was what I wanted to do.”
Alex’s commitment to her patients hasn’t gone unnoticed. Dr. William Warning, Director of the Family Medicine Residency Program made this observation, “Alex has a gift in building strong interpersonal relationships and excellent rapport with patients and families.
She partners with patients to meet them where they are in their medical and personal situation. She is a strong advocate for overall patient wellbeing and works with the patients to incrementally meet their goals.”
The Family Medicine Residency Program is a three-year, progressive training. We’ll check in with Alex each year during her residency and our hope is that when she graduates, she’ll join the ranks of family medicine physicians making a difference in the lives of patients who need their care the most.
For many of us, lead poisoning in children feels like an obsolete issue. Haven’t we banned lead in paint for decades? How would a child be exposed in this age of child-proofed homes and regulation of toxic chemicals in products designed for children? Sadly, lead poisoning is hardly a thing of the past. One in 40 children ages 1-5 years old has blood lead levels that are considered unsafe. Lead paint is still on the walls in too many older buildings, often in neighborhoods where low-income families live. In fact, it’s estimated that 80% of houses and apartments in Delaware County are likely to have lead paint. Children living in highly industrialized areas may pick it up from the soil. Other sources include water from old lead pipes, food stored in bowls glazed with lead-based glazes, art supplies such as solder for stained glass, and even some imported candies and herbs.
Symptoms of lead poisoning include:
Lead testing is also recommended for kids who live in an older home or whose parent has a hobby or job that involves being around lead. Any child who might have been exposed to lead should get tested.
How Is Lead Poisoning Treated?
The most important part of treatment is preventing more exposure to lead. The doctor will ask about the home to try to identify possible sources of lead. If a child has lead poisoning, all siblings should be tested.
Calcium, iron, and vitamin C are important parts of a healthy diet and also help decrease how much lead the body absorbs. The doctor may recommend a multivitamin with iron for a child who doesn’t get enough of these important nutrients in their diet.
Kids with high lead levels and symptoms of lead poisoning may need care in a hospital to get a medicine called a chelator (KEE-lay-ter). The chelator helps remove the lead from the body.
The effects of lead on development may not show up for years. Doctors will closely follow the development of children with lead exposure at all regular checkups.
Because there is no safe level for lead, try to protect kids from it. To help prevent lead poisoning:
For more information, including resources for lead removal, go to https://www.childrenfirstpa.org/issues/child-health/lead-poisoning/
Open enrollment for insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace® begins November 1 and continues through January 15, 2023. During this time, you can enroll in, re-enroll in, or change a 2023 health plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace®. Coverage can start as soon as January 1, 2023.
ChesPenn’s Certified Application Assisters can help you get insured through Pennie, Pennsylvania’s health insurance program.
Call 484-462-0028 to get on the road to better health!
November is COPD Awareness Month – and not coincidentally, The Great American Smokeout is on November 17. COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is an umbrella term for emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Smoking is its primary cause.
COPD can progress for years undiagnosed. Some of the first symptoms are shortness of breath, chronic cough or wheezing, chest tightness, and sudden tiredness. While many people are not diagnosed until their 40s or later, cases in individuals as young as 20 have been confirmed.
If you’ve ever had a friend or loved one with COPD, you know the suffering it causes. Breathing becomes harder by the year. It becomes impossible to go out of the house without portable oxygen, and eventually even to get around at home without continued access to oxygen. Flare-ups can mean visits to the emergency room when it suddenly becomes impossible to catch a breath, even with oxygen and breathing treatments at home. The strain on the heart often leads to congestive heart failure. It’s a terrible disease and terrible to watch for friends and loved ones. There is no cure, and treatment options are limited.
There is one easy way to prevent COPD – don’t smoke and if you do, stop. Now. ChesPenn offers smoking cessation counselling with free nicotine replacement under the Southeastern Pennsylvania Tobacco Control Project (SEPA). Anyone interested in the program can contact Tina Beahm, Community Health Educator, at 610-485-3800 Ext. 687. Find additional smoking cessation resources through the PA Free Quitline: 1-800-QUIT-NOW or https://pa.quitlogix.org/en-US/Enroll-Now .
November 17 is a great occasion to begin the journey to healthier lungs and a longer life!