CARE TOPPED WITH EQUITY AND REPRESENTATION
BY SARAH WENGERT
PHOTO BY ALISHA DAVIS
Andrea Jones, M.D., was fresh out of her residency when she had an opportunity to help launch a groundbreaking new partnership between Nebraska Medicine and Girls Incorporated of Omaha.
During her residency, Jones served on a steering committee meant to explore a partnership to provide an on-site clinic at Girls Inc. When her residency was complete and she had officially joined the Nebraska Medicine team, leadership asked if she was interested in taking on the role of medical director for Nebraska Medicine’s Girls Inc. Health Center.
“Being fresh out, of course, I was nervous at first,” Jones says. “But I’ve always had a place in my heart to practice adolescent health, and to empower kids as they transition into adulthood by serving their health care needs and advocating for anything needed in the community.”
The Girls Inc. Health Center, which opened in December 2016, provides services Monday through Friday from 3 to 7 p.m. “Dr. Drea,” as she is known, has one dedicated day there each week but also visits whenever necessary for procedures, events or to back up advanced practice registered nurse Kathy Hoffman and physician assistant Karen Schrader, who also staff the health center.
“Kathy and Karen have both been practicing for years, so they are very well experienced,” says Jones of her Girls Inc. team. “They’re also really great at making the patients feel comfortable during visits.”
Jones says the health center’s audience has evolved in phases since it opened, first serving solely girls for acute visits, preventative visits, shots, school physicals and reproductive health. Next, services for Girls Inc. staff and families were added. Now it’s open to the public.
“We first wanted to make sure that we were adequately addressing the needs of Girls Inc., and we had to explore what that capacity would look like,” Jones says.
“Once we realized we had the capacity to serve others, we opened it up to the public. Now we’re kind of a similar model to Nebraska Medicine’s immediate care clinics—essentially urgent care during our hours.”
Being connected with UNMC offers the Girls Inc. Health Center access to their vast network of services, from pediatrics to specialty clinics. If a referral is needed, Jones and her team arrange for that follow up, even ensuring transportation as needed.
Jones notes that the Girls Inc. Health Center is unique, not just to Omaha, but nationwide.
“The nearest model to our Girls Inc. Health Center would be something like a school-based health center, but there’s nothing like this that offers on-site health care for youth. Even nationally, we’re the only one that literally has a clinic attached to it. So it is very unique and I think a model that going forward could be utilized in other places.”
And the health center represents more than just medicine, especially to the girls it serves. Jones says it’s powerful for the girls to be able to look to her and know that they too could go into health care. In fact, the health center has an education room with information on scholarships, programs and partnerships for those interested in a health care career.
“I’ve had a lot of ladies come in and say, ‘I’m interested in this field’ or ‘I want to do this high school alliance program through the med center, how do I do this?’ So, I meet with them during my Girls Inc. office hours—which are open for any girl who wants to talk about any topic with me — and I will hook them up with a mentor or find them shadowing opportunities. It’s really developed into something that I think will help bring more diversity to medicine.”
Jones says Girls Inc. also offers many educational opportunities. For example, UNMC students will visit to do a seminar on healthy eating or a jump rope heart-rate activity, or Jones will do a yoga class or workout with the girls. Partnerships with the Protegé House, fellow women physicians and Adolescent Health Project, an initiative of the Women’s Fund of Omaha, have proven beneficial and gotten a great response, Jones says.
“It’s all about empowering people about the importance of their health and trying to expand affordable, easily accessible services within the community,” she says. “Everybody’s had a really positive response. We just need to continue to spread the word that we’re here for the community and we serve all ages.”
When youth have access to better manage their own health —especially with concrete things such as healthy after-school snacks, monitoring blood pressure and BMI, or self-breast exams—Jones says it can spread throughout their families for an even wider impact.
“I’m all about planting the seeds of preventative medicine,” she says. “When it comes to nutrition, for example, a kid’s behaviors cannot be isolated—the whole family has to change its ways. I like to offer tangible things the kids can do, and the more they practice and model that, the families will too and it will spread.”
When she’s not at the Girls Inc. Health Center, Jones keeps busy providing care at Nebraska Medicine’s outpatient Fontenelle Health Center, working inpatient service with residents, and teaching med students.
“I’ve recently been doing more bias training for medical students and trying to drive home the importance of cultural competency,” she says. “I really try to train the residents in this area because sometimes they don’t have exposure to working with minority communities, and it is crucial to help them understand the importance of providing equal care to everyone.”
Her professional interests aside, Jones’s reasons for wanting to serve at Girls Inc. are also quite personal.
“Growing up I had pretty bad asthma and my mom was a nurse, so I was in the hospital a lot,” she says. “My mom is white and my dad is African American, so I’m biracial. I remember looking around at the doctors and nurses and asking my mom, ‘Why doesn’t anyone else look like me?’ I realized that it did matter; it made a little bit of a difference when I had a person of color treating me. There’s an element of trust, and I just want to continue that forward.”
When she’s not at work, Jones spends time with her “heart and joy,” daughters Zora Love (age 8) and Mavis Hope (age 4). She also likes to do yoga, bike, travel and go to concerts. Last August in Chicago, as part of her goal to model healthy behaviors for those she serves, she trained for and completed her second triathlon. But Jones is quick to point out that as much as she can guide and teach the Girls Inc. girls, they have taught her plenty in return.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned from this work is to listen to the girls. They will tell you what they need and they will give you the feedback you need,” Jones says.
“They’ve helped me grow and become a leader in so many ways. Just knowing that they’re there—they need these services, they deserve these services, and I want to provide them—pushes me to be better every day. Working to eliminate any barriers to them obtaining the most evidence-based health care has really pushed me to grow.”