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Butler takes part in FOCUS St. Louis Impact Fellows Program

Published on 09 September 2019

Isaac Butler, Pharm.D., MBA, vice president of diversity and inclusion, was one of 14 local health care leaders chosen to serve as FOCUS St. Louis Impact Fellows for 2018-19. The program brings together leaders from St. Louis’ businesses and public and nonprofit organizations to collaborate on projects aimed at bettering the region. The 2018-19 cohort was tasked with examining St. Louis’ health care safety net through the lens of racial equity.

The health care safety net is comprised of institutions that provide care for the uninsured or the underinsured in medically underserved communities. Organizations within the area’s safety net include both community clinics and the major hospitals in the St. Louis region.

“These are the patients that have the biggest amount of need and will often use the emergency room for their health care services,” Butler said. “As a result, these individuals have the highest amount of cost associated with their care. As a FOCUS Impact Fellow, I was challenged to find ways to help these organizations that serve those most in need.”

The fellowship was broken up into two, five-month sessions. During the first session, fellows focused on gaining a deep understanding of the area’s health care safety net and the challenges faced by area health care organizations who provide care to underserved patients.

“The fellowship allowed me to intentionally carve out time and work to understand how our health care system is structured here in St. Louis,” Butler said. “Without this fellowship I wouldn’t know about the really great things that are happening within our health care institutions or understand the real challenges we face related to health care. This was an opportunity to learn and be part of the solution.”

During the second half of the fellowship, cohort participants worked alongside health care providers to address a variety of challenges and concerns including the recidivism of mental health patients in the criminal justice system and providing housing for the homeless.

Butler’s team was asked to examine how community clinics could better retain medical assistants who play a critical role in providing front-line care to patients. The team conducted a series of surveys and focus groups with leaders and medical assistants at area community clinics, and developed three key points to help encourage retention.

Their recommendations included the creation of pathways to, and within, the career and the development of avenues to expand responsibilities and provide promotions for medical assistants. The team also noted the need to make schedules for medical assistants more flexible and to create ways to make medical assistants feel like an integral part of the overall health care team.

“My hope is that the best practices that we researched around retention will help the local community health centers and also serve as a model, not just for medical assistants, but for all health care professionals,” Butler said. “Whether you’re talking about laboratory assistants or pharmacy technicians or nurses or practitioners in any other health field where there is a high amount of pressure and a high amount of turnover, I hope that the best practices we gathered can be helpful.”

Butler hopes to bring what he learned during the fellowship to the College and get the entire campus involved in helping community clinics that serve underserved populations.

“Our office’s mission for our campus is to embrace and leverage what makes each and every one of us unique, diverse individuals, and to use that in our daily work and throughout the institution,” Butler said. “As health care providers and educators, we must go out and serve. I feel like I have a better understanding now of these community clinics, and their structure and needs, and I hope to leverage our various departments across campus to help these community clinics meet their missions.”

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