When I was a first year medical student, I worked with a group of my fellow medical students to build an outdoor medical clinic. We wanted to raise awareness about the lack of primary care services in Detroit, and we accomplished this by constructing an outdoor medical clinic.
Currently, there are roughly 50 - 100 primary care doctors in the City of Detroit. This equates to about 1 primary care doctor for every 6,000 - 12,000 residents, which is horribly underserved. In the future, I would like to see 1 primary care doctor in every single Detroit Neighborhood, from East English Village to Ford/Wyoming, from Old Redford to Lafayette Park.
Having community primary care doctors creates a tremendous amount of value for the surrounding neighborhood - that doctor becomes a go-to person for folks who need health care and even emotional support.
However, the current reality in Detroit is that folks either don't have access to a primary care doctor or are driving to the suburbs for their care. To illustrate that lack of primary care services, our group of medical students built an outdoor clinic as a part of the Heidelberg Project on Detroit's East Side or what you may call the McDougall Hunt Neighborhood. Of course, we had the approval of Tyree Guyton, who checked in on our work that day, and we also received some press from the Detroit Free Press and the Wooster Collective out of NYC.
It was a simple clinic, with a reception desk, a door frame, a door, an exam table, and some chairs. On the door, we wrote all of the barriers to accessing health care services in Detroit and in the Nation. This was in 2009, when the debate over the Affordable Care Act was raging.
I visit the location periodically, to see how it has changed over the years. The last time I visited the site was in September 2016 during the Tour de Troit, an annual bicycling event that takes riders around the city. Someone had added a skeleton and some body parts, and it looks like Tyree made his signature drawings of faces on our plexiglass wall.
Plum Health may be in its infancy, but I know that we are already filling a need in the community in terms of primary care services. We recently surpassed 100 members and continue to grow, adding new members each week. We've taken care of newborns, toddlers, teens, and adults, and have addressed conditions ranging from sore throats to cancer.
As I continue to serve in the community, I hope to live up to the ideals that I put forth in this work of public art, to be the kind of community doctor that addresses the lack of access to health care in Detroit. I will also work to inspire the next generation of Family Physicians to take the leap into private practice in a community-based setting.
Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day,
Dr. Paul Thomas with Plum Health DPC