Residents of far southwestern Virginia with diabetes will be the beneficiaries of an initiative being launched this month by the University of Virginia Health System in partnership with The Health Wagon in Clinchco.
On September 26 and 27, The Health Wagon will host the first in a series of no-fee endocrinology clinics. A three-person team from UVA will staff the clinic, providing care for adults with diabetes, thyroid disease and other endocrine disorders.
Appointments have been filled for the September clinic, which will be devoted to providing follow-up care to individuals treated at this summer’s Remote Area Medical Health Fair in Wise. The Health Wagon is now scheduling patients for the next clinic, which is expected to occur in late 2008 in Clinchco.
“We are excited about this partnership. This clinic is certainly one of the greatest augmentations to our regional health care delivery system that we have ever experienced,” says Teresa Gardner, NP, executive director of The Health Wagon.
According to the information provided by the Healthy Appalachia project, diabetes is more prevalent, causes more hospitalizations and accounts for nearly twice as many deaths among residents of the Lenowisco and Cumberland Plateau planning districts than in Virginia as a whole. Residents of the Lenowisco planning district (Lee, Norton, Scott and Wise Counties) are twice as likely to develop diabetes than people living in other sections of the state. Those living in the Cumberland Plateau planning district (Buchanan, Dickenson, Russell and Tazewell Counties) also have a higher than average incidence of diabetes.
Although diabetes is a major health problem in the area, Gardner notes, there are no endocrinologists in Wise, Dickenson or Buchanan Counties. The nearest specialist is a two-hour drive away. For many diabetic patients, a trip to the Emergency Room is the only way to receive care locally.
The UVA team consists of: Wende M. Kozlow, M.D., an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism; Esther Thatcher, MSN, RN: and, Anne M. Diamond, MSN, RN and Director of the Diabetes Education and Management Program. Throughout 2009, the team will conduct clinics at both The Health Wagon and the Wise County Health Department. They will provide follow-up care via telemedicine appointments at both sites.
“Launching this clinic is part of UVA’s commitment to create strong partnerships with healthcare providers in far southwestern Virginia and to ensure that area residents have better access to the medical specialists they need,” Dr. Kozlow explains.
She adds that the UVA team is committed to providing early intervention for patients with diabetes. “Our goal is to help patients manage their condition so they can prevent the devastating consequences of this disease, including heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, loss of vision and painful neuropathy,” says Dr. Kozlow.
The endocrinology outreach is the latest addition to a roster of clinics that UVA specialists regularly conduct in the Coalfield region. Throughout the year, they run pulmonology and neurology clinics for adults as well as neurology, neurodevelopment, cystic fibrosis, orthopedic, cardiology and genetics clinics for children.
UVA also uses its telemedicine network to provide specialty clinical services and health education to area residents. Several dozen UVA telemedicine sites are located in hospitals, health departments, correctional facilities and community health centers in Southwest Virginia. Twelve sites are in the Coalfield area, making it one of the most well-connected telemedicine regions in the country.
Gardner says she is excited about using telemedicine to provide on-going care to her patients with diabetes. “Some of my patients have very fragile health and complex conditions that need to be managed by an endocrinologist. Far too often, many patients require a multifaceted approach to manage their diabetes, which is simply not available here,” she says.
“Telemedicine is cutting edge medicine that gives my patients right here in Clinchco – rural town USA – access to some of the best care and best physicians in the nation without leaving home,” Gardner notes. “Our patients have been very comfortable with their telemedicine experience.”
For more information about upcoming endocrinology clinics or to schedule an appointment, call The Health Wagon at 276-835-9474. For information about UVA’s other medical outreach activities in the region, call David Cattell-Gordon on 434-982-4234.
Healthy Appalachia – http://www.uvawise.edu/health/
Healthy Appalachia is a coalition between the University of Virginia, College at Wise , the University of Virginia , the Southwest Virginia Graduate Medical Education Consortium , the Appalachian Regional Commission, Virginia Department of Health PD I&II , and the Virginia Community Healthcare Association . Healthy Appalachia is working to develop a common understanding of the region’s health status and a strategic vision of a healthier future for the residents of far Southwest Virginia.
SW Virginia Economic Development Partnership – http://www.virginia.edu/vpr/industry/southwestva_health.html
Overseen by the University of Virginia, the Southwest Virginia Partnership is improving access to healthcare through numerous initiatives.