On a wintery Saturday morning on the east side of Kansas City, Missouri, the waiting room at Hope Family Care Center (HFCC) is bustling. Patients chat while waiting for their appointments. Nurses greet patients by name, calling them back to the exam rooms. An adult diabetes education class is underway down the hall.
Before HFCC opened its doors in fall 2009 at 3027 Prospect Ave., there was no primary care facility available in the immediate neighborhood. During the first year and a half of operation, HFCC was staffed by a rotation of doctors and nurses who volunteered their time to see patients. HFCC was only open in the mornings, making it difficult for some patients to make appointments. Despite the challenges, HFCC has treated more than 1,200 patients since its inception.
Now HFCC is welcoming its first full-time doctor. Jeremy Kirchoff, MD, a family practice and obstetrics physician, comes to HFCC through a partnership with Research Medical Center. Dr. Kirchoff is the primary physician for HFCC patients and also provides prenatal care for expectant mothers. In order to provide the neglected east side neighborhood with adequate medical care, Research—part of HCA Midwest Health System, Kansas City’s largest healthcare network—is committing more than $600,000 over two years. This investment in the east side’s healthcare will allow HFCC to retain a full-time staff and extend operating hours.
The funding will enable HFCC to address the medical needs of more people like Denise Hudson, who, despite her busy schedule, has made a special effort to attend the diabetes class on a cold winter morning. “At any other clinic, I wouldn’t have shown up for something like this,” Hudson says. “But because of the way they treat me here, I want to come.”
Hudson first sought medical treatment at HFCC a year ago, and because of the care she receives there, her diabetes is now under control. The staff at HFCC found affordable medication for her. She is eating properly, and in November she quit smoking.
“When my doctor heard I quit smoking, she stopped and took the time to hear my story,” Hudson says. “She wanted to know how I did it. She was so proud of me.”
As a patient at HFCC, Hudson feels respected by the staff. She likes the prompt attention she receives and since it’s only three minutes from her home, HFCC is accessible. And when the need has arisen, some of the doctors have even bowed their heads and prayed with her.
“The doctors here are prayerful,” says Hudson. “They take the time to talk to me, they want to help me and they are really here because they want to be. They treat me like family.”
It was the strong Christian values and emphasis on community restoration that attracted Dr. Kirchoff to HFCC. “When Research Medical Center gave me the opportunity to join Hope Family Care Center, I was thrilled. This is an organization that is taking a holistic, multi-faceted approach to investing in a neighborhood,” says Dr. Kirchoff. “I want to be part of a community that, through the love of Christ, is also addressing the larger problems that are present in the neighborhood.”
Jake Latta, the COO of the Hope Center, HFCC’s parent organization, says Dr. Kirchoff’s arrival is a key component to community development on the east side. “The goal is for neighborhood restoration,” he said. “The Hope Center wants to be a catalyst that creates opportunities for neighborhood residents. HFCC plays a big part in that strategy.”
HFCC hopes that the community will view them as a neighborhood partner and ally, and will take the opportunity to proactively address their medical needs. The end goal is a healthier, thriving community. Latta says he is grateful for Research Medical Center’s involvement in making a full-time physician available to HFCC patients. “It helps build a better quality of life for them,” he says.
Kevin Hicks, chief executive officer of Research Medical Center, says the partnership is an important part of the hospital’s community outreach. “We are a part of this community and want residents to have access to quality and compassionate healthcare for themselves and their families,” he says. “Dr. Kirchoff emulates the professional values representative of Research Medical Center, which has served the Kansas City area for 125 years.”
As for Hudson, she plans to continue receiving treatment for diabetes at the HFCC. In the fall, the doctors there told her she could stop taking insulin, and her next goal is to forgo medication completely. “When they told me I could come off of insulin, it was the best day of my life,” she says. “I feel excited, like I can conquer diabetes. Now my next step is to start exercising. They inspire me.”