[fancy-title type=”h3″]Setting the Stage, Living the Mission[/fancy-title] When Norman Bell arrived on the North Coast in 1976 he too was looking for a home; an organization with a community health model, a mission he could stand behind, and an infrastructure in place that held the promise for his future and his career. He found that combination in Arcata. It was kismet, not coincidence that brought the young doctor trained in community health to a clinic committed to its surroundings. Dr. Bell was the first full-time medical provider hired at HODC. He continues to work for the clinic today.
Along with the rest of the dedicated staff, Dr. Bell knew “needs for health care extended far beyond Arcata and what our one clinic could do, so we set out to fill that need. The bottom line was that many people in this community needed access to health care and couldn’t get it. Maybe they didn’t have insurance. Maybe they couldn’t afford a private doctor. Maybe they couldn’t afford the gas. It didn’t matter to us. We made the decision not to turn people away even if they couldn’t pay. Our mission was to serve the whole community. We agreed to work as long as there were patients to be seen. There are still patients to be seen.”
Dr. Bell’s passion and area of specialty training is in Pediatric medicine. After ten years of general medicine at HODC he began seeing pediatric patients exclusively. He now treats the children of the children he treated when first starting out. Emphasizing patient-centered care, Dr. Bell strives to build connections with his patients’ schools and families and has become a local expert in childhood behavioral problems. “HODC has become a place for people with complex cases. The clinic is a bridge to other members of the medical community. This is a good way for the medical system to function.”
[fancy-title type=”h3″]Quality Care, Access For All[/fancy-title]
Janae Zolna, MD, fell in love with the Pacific Northwest during medical school in Portland. When her husband’s job with the National Forest Service brought her family to Humboldt County last July, she felt she was in the right place. Even as the busy mother of a two-year old “who would rather be at the zoo or on the beach than just about anywhere else,” Dr. Zolna knew, without doubt, that she wanted to practice family medicine and make a contribution to the community. “My work with Open Door presents the opportunity for me to remain dedicated to my beliefs and work for an organization that supports access to health care for all. All of us are entitled to quality care.”
Dr. Zolna views her relationship with her patients as a partnership aimed at achieving the best possible health. “I’m deeply committed to preventive medicine. I’m motivated by the toll diabetes and other chronic conditions have had on my own family. I enjoy working with our patients and the scope of care I give at this clinic. Every day is different here. From simple medicine to complex diagnoses, I see everyone in my practice, from babies to geriatrics.”
And the effort to ‘see everyone’ can be daunting. “I can get you in this afternoon,” is a phrase often used by Elaine Reynolds, RN Coordinator at HODC. “My job is to make sure that people who need care are seen quickly. I get calls from our established patients and from people who have never been to the clinic before.” Elaine juggles the schedule,cajoles the providers and calls other Open Door clinics. She won’t be happy unless the caller is taken care of. “We’re a team, a big team, and we work to create that extra space. When people call, I know they are usually hurting and scared. They need help and reassurance.” There are 50 people working with Elaine at HODC, including 12 medical providers, but the demand can exceed supply. “Are we perfect? No. But I know this team will do everything it can to get people the care they need.”
Another HODC provider is Ellen Weiss, MD., who, like Dr. Zolna, is committed to empowering people to take control of their lives and their health care. Dr. Weiss, a busy mother of two,oboist for the Eureka Symphony, Bayside resident, exercise enthusiast and Medical Director of HODC, believes that whether “a person is glowingly healthy or dealing with complex medical conditions, we can make healthy choices that allow us to make the most of our lives.”
Dr. Weiss has lived and worked in our community for nearly twenty years, joining Open Door in 1992, first at the Eureka Community Health Center and later HODC. Dr. Weiss serves a diverse group of patients of all ages. “I feel supported to deliver the type of health care that is needed. Open Door views the whole health and wellness of a patient, including social, economic and health issues. I feel fortunate to practice medicine in a community with so many agencies available to contribute to patient wellness.” She also enjoys working with whole families. “I currently see four generations of one family in our community, from the two year old to the great grandparent.”
“There are many problems which cause patients to have poor health, and they aren’t all medical.” says Dr. Weiss. “Other factors often cause or exacerbate health conditions.” Patientswho walk through the doors at HODC have in some cases been refused by other practices because they don’t have insurance or can’t afford the fees. Sometimes practices can’t cope with the range of medical, housing, financial, behavioral and social problems a patient presents. Dr. Weiss reflects, “The HODC doctors are trained in family medicine and that helps us to care for the variety of patients we have here. The whole staff works as a support team to assess and meet a patient’s needs from multiple angles. We need to be very flexible and very responsive.” In Dr. Weiss’ opinion, “my responsibility as a doctor includes serving as a teacher. I want my patients to make informed healthy decisions. Then we need to respect the choices patients make for themselves.”
[fancy-title type=”h3″]Seeing the Need, Filling the Gap[/fancy-title]
Like many of Open Door’s healthcare providers, David Horwitz, PA-C, views himself as a teacher who assists patients in taking charge of their own health care. “Before I became a Physician Assistant, I volunteered here as a welfare rights counselor. That was in the 70s. The commitment of Open Door to providing a full range of services in a sensitive and caring way remains today. We work to meet patients’ needs to our fullest ability.” His continued dedication has positioned David as something of a specialty provider, responding to unique health care needs and providing areas of expertise to patients when there was no one else in the area to champion their concerns.
David is credited with diagnosing the first HIV positive patient in Humboldt County more than 25 years ago. “We didn’t want to believe it could happen here, but it did, and still does.” says David, who along with Gail Hovorka, MD, and Sergio Codina, AIDS Certified RN, embodies HODC’s commitment to being a center of excellence for HIV care for the north coast. David notes, “HODC will offer free HIV screening during all regular visits from June 20th to July 1st as part of National HIV Testing Month.”
Like so many staff, David has stayed because Open Door is an organization that provides access for all. “We’ve always taken a good look around and worked to fill in the gaps. That’s what we’ve done with Teen Clinic, with our HIV care, and now with our Transgender Clinic.” When approached by Project HEALTH to collaborate in better meeting the health needs of our transgender community members, HODC rose to the opportunity, with David Horwitz leading the way. With all of his patients David wants to know, “Will you work with us, learn with us, and join us in your health care – for yourself, your family and our community? That’s the basis of a healthy partnership.”