Our commitment to serving our patients and community

Many of the stories that I share in these posts focus on our research and education missions. The faculty and trainees in our department exemplify a can-do spirit and commitment to innovation that makes these stories easy to find and to tell. However, our clinical mission occupies the majority of the effort of our faculty, who work tirelessly to provide the best possible care for our patients without expecting recognition or accolades. Yesterday morning, as I rounded with one of our general medicine teams, I was again impressed by the effort of our clinical services who manage some of the most challenging clinical cases that populate our floors. I acknowledge and thank all of you, our faculty and trainees, for the work that you do, and I dedicate this post to highlighting a few examples of many, who exemplify the clinical excellence of our faculty and trainees. These are stories of care—triumphs and marvels and the values that motivate us.   

An inspiring story was recently featured as an op-ed column in the local newspaper from Barbara Vinograde, the executive director of the Iowa City Free Medical and Dental Clinic (FMC). For fifty years, the FMC has provided care to the uninsured and the underinsured with the support of donors, grants, and sweat equity of many of our colleagues here and in the College of Dentistry. Six medical clinics and three dental clinics a week are staffed by physicians and dentists, residents and students, many of whom serve on a purely volunteer basis. Our own residency program offers a rotation at the FMC directed by Associate Program Director Dr. Katie Harris. Besides the university’s Mobile Clinic, it is hard to imagine a better training opportunity for medical students and residents to fully grasp the inherent challenges in our fragmented health care delivery system and the difficult choices many of our neighbors face, particularly those who are uninsured or underinsured. Below you can see a list Vinograde and her team at FMC sent us of faculty, fellows, and residents who have worked there in recent years. I echo her gratitude for this essential safety net you have all provided our community.

Another essential community we care for besides those who are un- or underinsured are our nation’s Veterans. Their sacrifice for a cause larger than themselves is top of mind for many of our department’s physicians who choose to work across the street at the Iowa City VA Medical Center (ICVA). By most measures, the care we deliver there is rated highly among other VAMCs across the nation and the patient population is as appreciative as they are full of interesting stories. Two of our department’s physicians have been recognized for their exceptional devotion to the mission of the VAMC. Nephrologist Dr. Gerald DiBona set a bar for excellence in service, care, and leadership there, and Chief of Medicine Dr. Brad Dixon, along with Deputy Chief Dr. Diana Jalal, conceived and established an award in Dr. DiBona’s honor. The award seeks to honor a faculty member working at the ICVA who has demonstrated a sustained, outstanding commitment to clinical care, education, and research in the service of Veterans. Its inaugural recipient is Dr. Jack Stapleton, who has given as much to the care of our Veterans as he has to Iowans diagnosed as HIV+. Second, our GI fellowship director, Dr. Adrian Holm was recently honored with one of the VA Health System’s highest honors, the Mark Wolcott Award for Excellence. The award recognizes a healthcare practitioner in a leadership or management position who has demonstrated excellence through exceptional support for direct patient care providers, including support of innovations enhancing the quality of direct patient care delivery. Congratulations to Drs. Stapleton and Holm, and thank you for all that you have done and will continue to do to fulfill our national obligation. As we celebrate these colleagues, it would be remiss of me not to also look to the future and recognize our recently announced Chief Residents-elect. These four will no doubt continue to lead and inspire our trainees to achieve the same level of clinical excellence and commitment to our community so wonderfully exemplified by all of our faculty.

Finally, I want to highlight another example of our department’s commitment to our community particularly in response to COVID-19 pandemic. We have recognized and presented in our Grand Rounds this year and last year and actively responded to the disproportionate challenges and adverse outcomes of COVID-19 in communities of color. As the vaccination effort began, and recognizing that many in minority communities were either hesitant or face challenges to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, the department committed resources to increase outreach to members of this community in Iowa. I am proud of the initiative spearheaded by the Black Faculty Council and carried out by our department’s Design Center video team to produce a series of testimonials from Black and Latinx faculty and staff. We believe their direct, first-hand accounts of why they chose to get vaccinated can help wavering people make a choice for their own safety as well as the safety of our community. You can see the first videos from Dr. Joyce Goins-Fernandez and Dr. Michael Osnard. Future English and Spanish versions from translator Adrián Silva are coming very soon, as well as ones from other members of our institution.

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