Featured Testimonial About Creighton University
When you’re in the clinic, you see that it just crackles with intensity and passion and joy in serving. ... And there couldn’t be a better person to have at the heart of it all than Dr. John Anwar.
By Micah Mertes
During the pandemic, John Anwar, MD, noticed that the patients who needed his clinic’s care most urgently were the very ones who had stopped coming in at all.
These were uninsured patients with chronic health problems, patients who, in many cases, had lost their jobs and found themselves cast even further to the fringes. They were, Dr. Anwar said, people who no longer felt they could afford to be healthy.
Often, these patients weren’t seeking care until it was almost too late. They were ending up in the emergency room, and this is where Dr. Anwar intervened.
He asked the area hospitals’ discharge nurses to make follow-up appointments for all uninsured patients to St. Vincent de Paul’s (SVdP) Virginia G. Piper Medical Clinic, a clinic serving uninsured patients without access to care in Maricopa County, Arizona.
The referrals would ensure that patients received the ongoing care they needed — for free or at a significantly reduced cost — at an interprofessional clinic with nearly 32 specialties and an ever-growing number of Creighton faculty and health sciences students on hand to support health professional volunteers from the community.
“The plan worked well, with the emergency readmission rate dropping dramatically and more patients getting the care they needed at the clinic,” said Randy Richardson, MD, regional dean, School of Medicine, Creighton Health Sciences Campus – Phoenix. “Dr. Anwar has a wonderful spirit of innovation and collaboration, a passion for caring for those in need and an enthusiasm for finding solutions to every challenge.
“This made him the obvious choice for the Virginia G. Piper Chair of Medicine and Chief Medical Officer at SVdP’s Virginia G. Piper Medical Clinic.”
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On Feb. 18, Dr. Anwar — assistant professor at the School of Medicine in Phoenix — was installed as the holder of Creighton’s 45th endowed chair, the second at the Creighton University Health Sciences Campus – Phoenix. In his role, he will help lead an enterprise that’s already transforming Creighton health sciences education and the quality of care provided for underserved populations in the Valley.
Dr. Anwar’s chair installation comes nearly a year after Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust invested $10 million to more deeply integrate SVdP’s Virginia G. Piper Medical Clinic into the Creighton Phoenix campus’ curriculum and to provide greater access to care for uninsured patients in Maricopa County.
Creighton faculty and third- and fourth-year medical students have long been volunteering at the clinic. Thanks to Piper Trust’s gift, the clinic now serves as the primary teaching facility for first- and second-year medical students, as well.
“The pandemic has further underlined the crisis of growing health care disparities,” said Mary Jane Rynd, President and CEO of Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust. “Through our partnership with Creighton University and St. Vincent de Paul, we are using our collective capacity to provide greater access to high-quality health care for the patients who need it most urgently.”
Medical, nursing, physician assistant, pharmacy, occupational therapy and physical therapy faculty and students have been working together to serve patients at SVdP’s Virginia G. Piper Medical Clinic.
The clinic’s infusion of students and faculty is not only giving future health care providers an invaluable real-world experience in serving the underserved; it’s expanding access to preventative, acute and specialty care in the process.
Better education, better care, better outcomes for patients.
Since Creighton’s partnership, hospital readmission for uninsured patients treated at SVdP’s Virginia G. Piper Medical Clinic is just 3.4%, far lower than the national average of 11.5%.
“We’re just a year into this partnership made possible by Piper Trust, and we’re seeing such great results already,” said Shannon Clancy, Associate CEO of St. Vincent de Paul. “But in some ways, it’s really just the beginning of something transformative. We hope this clinic can be an example — the example — of how to meet the health care needs of underserved communities.
“When you’re in the clinic, you see that it just crackles with intensity and passion and joy in serving. In a very difficult couple of years, this has been such a beacon of light and hope. And there couldn’t be a better person to have at the heart of it all than Dr. John Anwar.”
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Sometimes, Dr. Anwar said, patients who come to SVdP’s Virginia G. Piper Medical Clinic will break into tears of relief. Some pray in gratitude right there in the exam room.
“They do this because we have all these services here under one roof, and if they can’t pay for them, they don’t have to,” Dr. Anwar said. “All primary health care needs, all specialty needs, all cancer screenings, all done in one visit.
“The patients realize that they don’t have to go anywhere else. They see that in our clinic they’ve found a home.”
The same could be said of Dr. Anwar himself.
Originally from Egypt, Dr. Anwar came to the U.S. to pursue medicine, attending the University of California, Davis for his undergraduate degree, then the Ross University School of Medicine. He moved to Arizona to complete his internal medicine residency at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, where he later accepted a full-time position.
During his residency, Anwar rotated at the clinic he now leads. What he saw in SVdP’s Virginia G. Piper Medical Clinic then is what he sees it now: the potential to transform health care in Arizona.
SVdP’s Virginia G. Piper Medical Clinic is part of the Arizona Safety Net System — a collaboration of more than 40 clinics providing services to underserved patients. Dr. Anwar sees his clinic as both a network hub and scalable model.
“Because of the support of Piper Trust and our partnership with Creighton,” Dr. Anwar said, “we have attracted so many more specialties to the clinic. Creighton’s prestige has led to many more people wanting to be a part of this.”
What some people might not realize about the clinic, he said, is what a unique learning opportunity it presents for health sciences students, one that stems from the needs of the patients themselves.
“Our patients need more time,” Dr. Anwar said. “Our patient populations are working, poor people. Many of our female patients have been victims of domestic abuse. They require more attention, more time from us to listen to and respond to their needs. This luxury of time and of addressing all the patient’s needs cannot be done in a regular clinic.”
Beyond the life-giving care such time and attention provide, the byproduct is an invaluable learning experience.
The extra time treating each patient — three to four times that of regular clinics, Dr. Anwar estimated — presents more time for attending physicians to teach and more opportunities for Creighton health sciences students to learn how to care for uninsured patients in poor health.
“When these students graduate, they will be far ahead of their peers at other institutions, getting a very unique clinical experience years before many medical students are even out of the classroom,” Dr. Anwar said. “These graduates will become ambassadors for the community, as they have already done so much to care for the people in it.”
Dr. Anwar and SVdP say Creighton’s partnership will help support a wholly unified network operating on a model of interprofessional care, all specialties and services accessible to all patients who need them from providers who understand their needs and are committed to their holistic care.
“These will be among the best-educated health professionals in the state,” said Dr. Anwar, “working together to provide a better delivery of care to those who need it most.”
About Creighton University
Creighton University, based in Omaha, Nebraska, is one of 27 Jesuit colleges and universities in the U.S. It enrolls more than 4,000 undergraduates and more than 4,000 graduate and professional students among nine schools and colleges. In 2021, Creighton opened the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust Health Sciences Building, home of the Creighton Health Sciences Campus – Phoenix. The campus will accommodate nearly 900. Combined with Creighton’s health sciences programs in Omaha, the Phoenix campus makes Creighton the largest educator of professional health sciences students than any other Catholic university. Visit Creighton.edu for more information.
About Society of St. Vincent de Paul Phoenix
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is an international nonprofit organization that feeds, clothes, houses and heals. It is dedicated to serving people in need and providing the community with the opportunity to serve. St. Vincent de Paul has been assisting central and northern Arizona families since 1946. It operates a network of more than 80 neighborhood food pantries, five charity dining rooms, a transitional shelter, a resource center for the homeless, bill assistance and homelessness prevention programming, as well as a charity clinic with medical, dental and wellness care for the uninsured.
About Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust:
Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust supports organizations that enrich health, well-being, and opportunity for the people of Maricopa County, Arizona. Since it began awarding grants in 2000, Piper Trust has invested more than $662 million in local nonprofits and programs. Piper Trust grantmaking areas are healthcare and medical research, children, older adults, arts and culture, education and religious organizations. For more information: visit pipertrust.org | @PiperTrust | Facebook.