The Full Circle
Does your clinic provide a full circle of health? The Good Samaritan implements a full circle of health model that goes above and beyond a regular clinic to improve the overall health of those with limited healthcare access. I am proud of working at Good Sam for the great services we provide to our patients.
First, let me talk to you a little bit about what Good Sam’s full circle of health is all about. The Full Circle of Health was developed to address social determinants of health, and thus decrease the devastating life expectancy gap between the westside and the wealthiest parts of Atlanta. The Full Circle of Health includes medical care, dental care, behavioral health services, health education, and healthy living tools. Medical care includes comprehensive primary care along with prenatal care, pediatrics, diagnostic labs, case management, and specialty services. The dental program offers hygiene, restorative care, prosthetics, and specialty care. The behavioral health department offers same day assessment and well as scheduled counseling sessions and psychiatric consultation. Health education programing compliments medical services and includes diabetic education, nutritional consults, cooking classes, kidney health classes, and prenatal classes. Good Sam further enhances patients’ ability to engage in healthy lifestyles through the Good Sam farm, farmer’s market, and the YMCA gym. These services provide patients with opportunities for affordable fresh produce and a safe place for exercise.
I joined Good Samaritan about 2 and a half years ago right in the middle of the harshest part of the pandemic. Starting off, I was screening every single patient walking through the doors for covid. At the slightest hint that they had symptoms for Covid, I would have to find a solution for them to improve their health and protect other patients from exposure to Covid. I would add them to the schedule to get tested or to be seen for their covid like symptoms. Looking back now at this role, I reflect that the role was created during the pandemic to sustain and preserve the full circle of health model that Good Sam embraces at its core, because without it we would have missed a spot to provide care for our patients. While this position has changed to accommodate our ever-increasing number of patients, we are still one of a few clinics that physically check and protect their patients from covid at the door. Although, COVID was tough I am proud to have been here for the most difficult part.
Guest Services Associate
Good Samaritan Health Center
Thanks for the Lessons, 2022
How can it already be time to reflect on 2022? Didn’t this year just begin? They say “time flies when you’re having fun” and there has surely been a great deal of fun, laughter, and shenanigans in these hallowed halls this year. However, I would amend that statement to include the rapid passing of time when you’re working really hard to address critical needs around you. There never seems to be enough time.
If you had asked me at the beginning of this year, “What new programs or projects do you think Good Sam will embark upon in 2022?” I probably would have laughed and said “Nothing new, we’re going to work hard to maintain all the good we’re doing now.” That answer was part my own risk aversion, part my core belief that Good Sam was already doing so, so much good, and part the hope to protect a staff I love from burning out after a really difficult two years. That answer was also wrong.
I genuinely don’t know how we keep doing more. But we do. Weekly vaccine clinics, outreach events, Uber Health rides, opening new spaces, expanding the offerings of our Market, same day services, satellite clinics, the list from this year is long. And it’s invigorating. It’s not scary, as my mind would have me believe when we’re in the planning stages. It’s so exciting and full of hope. I listen to new ideas almost weekly. Some are urged by thoughtful philanthropists who have funding and a belief that we’re just the organization to use it for good. Many are brought up by the faithful staff members, boots on the ground that see this work and know a new service offering could address a need they keep hearing from our neighbors. I crunch numbers: finances, hours in the day, sustainability, outcomes; and I worry we just can’t make it work right now. Then someone, usually Breanna or Dr. Bill or a board member, reminds me that we can certainly try. If it doesn’t work out, we’ll walk it back and try the next thing. And then we try. And then it usually works out.
As I look back over 2022, I’m incredibly grateful that Good Sam had the faith and fortitude to do more and try new things. I am grateful that I got to be a part of that and that I was able to bear witness to the blessing that comes from that kind of faith. Not just blessings on Good Sam, but blessings for our neighbors. Increased access to quality healthcare, a chance for a healthier life, welcoming arms when needed most, these are not “crunchable numbers”. But it is our mission and our calling. Whether driven by faith or the urgency of the needs around us, this organization and this year have taught me that there is always space for more and new when you’re walking in Love. That to “seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God” means to be courageous, bold, and willing to give it a try.
I hope to carry this faith with me into 2023. To say “let’s give it a try” more and worry less. I pray that our stories of victory, hope, and healing from the last year have been a blessing to you through this blog and that you will join us in the new year with increased faith because of what you’ve witnessed God doing here. Until then, Merry Christmas! See you soon.
Chief Development Officer
Good Samaritan Health Center
Multiplying Our Impact
During a clinic day, I go in and out of exam rooms interacting with my patients in 15–30-minute intervals (maybe a little longer), hoping I can make an impact on each person’s health. Even in these short bursts of time, I can often become a confidant to the person in front of me, a shoulder to cry on during difficult times, a friendly face with which to share a hard-won victory. All these pieces of the patients’ life affect their health; our clinic embraces the circle of health model that includes every aspect of our lives, including mental health, spiritual health, nutrition, exercise, and medicine. However, during that small window of opportunity I have to make a difference, I often uncover obstacles that may get in the way of patient achieving his or her health goal. The problem may be that the patient is uninsured and needs the services of a specialist or that he or she has suffered a loss and needs to find a local support group. The patient may live alone but not be able to prepare his or her food and needs a food delivery service. Unfortunately, my medical expertise can only go so far in these situations, but now I have access to a relatively new service in our clinic that has been very helpful. I can message our case managers to contact the patient or have them come in for a consult to obtain financial assistance for specialist appointments or find local resources that meet his or her need. Our patients have been able to benefit from an extra advocate who is working on their behalf to open the door to a better health outcome, a wider space to be sure than the small window I have access to during our short office encounters.
Dr. Melissa Sanchez
Good Samaritan Health Center
Growing up I always knew I wanted to help others. I grew up helping my family in numerous ways and it became a passion to help others in every way possible. No matter where I was, or what I was doing, if there was any way I could help, I would. As I got older, I remember telling myself that when I got older I wanted to continue helping people. Being bilingual has definitely been a great advantage for me. I am able to help those that are struggling with language barriers. When I was younger, I would witness how much of an issue it was to not speak English. I’d see family and friends not be able to thoroughly inform their doctors about their problems. It was then that I tried my hardest to be available to those who needed that help.
After graduating high school, I remember taking one of my family members to an optometrist and translating for him. Little did I know that the simple act of helping someone whose first language isn’t English was going to help me get a job here at Good Sam. I would love when patients would thank me. To see the joy in their eyes when they felt heard was what kept me looking forward to work in an environment where I could do that and more.
Fast forward to 2019, I was given the opportunity to work at Good Samaritan Health Center. I initially started in Guest Services and worked with an amazing team alongside an amazing role model, Lizeth. I am thankful for being allowed to interact with patients and help them with their needs. I would answer the phone and speak with our patients regarding their upcoming appointments or any outstanding order. I would call our patients that were on the waitlist to see specialists that would improve their overall health. I was also given the opportunity to translate for those that had a language barrier and were unable to communicate with their provider or counselor. There have been numerous times where our patients have expressed how grateful they are when a clinic has a translator that allows them to fully express through us what they are experiencing and also being able to understand everything they are being told.
I was fortunate enough to be able to bond with our patients and community to the point where everyone felt like family. Patients deserve to feel heard and seen and that has been one of my top priorities. My favorite third grade teacher would always say “Treat others how you’d want to be treated. Think about others the way you want to be thought of. Feel about others the way you would want others to feel about you. Speak to others the way you want to be spoken to.” It was then that I realized that I was finally in a place where I could do everything that I wanted to do and more.
I am now working as a Medical Assistant and I also do Case Management. It is truly a dream come true being able to help our patients, both English and Spanish speaking patients. The ability to sit with a patient and discuss what their needs are and how they have had so many obstacles in their path up until they received this help is truly an eye opener and only makes me enjoy what I do at the clinic even more.
I enjoy being able to call our patients with good news, especially if it’s me telling them they have been approved for a specific assistance that we had applied for, such as housing, legal assistance, Food Stamps, Georgia Medicaid, Northside Approval, and the list goes on.
I would love to continue making a difference and helping support the purpose of Good Sam. It is truly an honor to be serving my purpose in a place so full of positivity and where we are truly spreading Christ’s love through quality healthcare to those in need.
Good Samaritan Health Center
My name is Treanda Smith and I am an Atlanta native. As I like to say, born and raised in Atlanta. I have lived here all my life and never thought about leaving. When people ask questions about Atlanta, it’s always a delight to share the knowledge that I have and the history. In 1976, my family moved to Techwood Homes, which was a public housing project, located on the Northwest side of downtown Atlanta. Techwood Homes was adjacent to Bankhead Hwy, now known as Donald Lee Hollowell Pkwy.
In 1980, I entered high school and it was also located on Bankhead Hwy. After leaving high school, I had no idea of what my purpose was, and no Idea of what was to become of my life. Fast forward to April 18, 2011, I started working for The Good Samaritan Health Center on Donald Lee Hollowell Pkwy. This year makes 11 years of working at Good Sam. Working at Good Sam has given me the opportunity to give back and to live out the mission of “spreading Christ’s love through quality healthcare to those in need.” I never thought that I would be working in my old neighborhood, but I know for sure God led me to the Good Sam. I remember leaving my interview and having an epiphany, knowing at that moment, this is my place, my job, my opportunity, my purpose.
Part of my day-to-day at Good Sam consists of helping patients navigate appointments for different screenings, such as mammograms and colonoscopies to rule out cancer. I try to instill in patients that screenings can help find problems early on, and if detected early, may be easier to treat. Getting recommended screenings is one of the most important things you can do for your health.
On May 5th of 2016 I turned 50 years old. I remember going for a health check and being sent home with a fecal immunochemical test (FIT). This test uses antibodies to detect blood in the stool to screen for colon cancer. Guess what, I never sent the specimen in, and after that I continued to do a health check every year but never sent in the FIT. This year I took a hard look at myself and decided to go ahead and get the colonoscopy, like JUST DO IT. How can I spend my day trying to encourage people to get their screenings done but can’t encourage myself? After speaking with Dr. Sanchez and hearing her say, “you have to get this done,” I decided to just do it.
I started my adventure by making the initial appointment for the consultation and education. I met with the doctor who was going to perform the procedure and reviewed the diet plan and prep. On October 14th, I started a light residue diet and then on the 16th nothing but clear liquids for 24hrs. I also had to start the Polyethylene Glycol jug mixed with water. The whole jug had to be completed by 2:00am. The drink was ok. I kept drinking it with water, Jell-O and Gatorade. Around 1:50am I struggled to finish the last two cups.
That morning, I checked into Dekalb Gastroenterology. The team placed the IV, I spoke with the doctor again, they administered the anesthesia. I woke up to normal results. Going forward I will always be an advocate for my health. I would rather be a little uncomfortable for a screening than miss an opportunity to take care of myself.
Medical Services Coordinator
Good Samaritan Health Center
I grew up in a low-income household with limited access to health care. I only remember visiting the doctor when we were severely sick. The options for medical care were the emergency room or the neighborhood non-profit medical clinic with Dr. Reynolds. Dr. Reynolds offered a variety of healthcare services. He saw newborns to seniors, common cold to chronic disease management. I vaguely remember the waiting room. It was full of plants and was always crowded with sick patients. There were rarely ever any parking spaces available. The best part was that you never needed to have a scheduled appointment. It was so simple to walk in and receive help. Yes, the wait times were long, but Dr. Reynolds never turned anyone away. We struggled with transportation; therefore, my mother always had to call a taxi cab. She always said getting there was more expensive than seeing the doctor.
When I first became an adult and had health insurance, I believed I could walk in into the clinic of my choice. It turns out it is not that simple. Medical practices have rules and policies and walk-in appointments for new patients are rarely available or non-existent. Because I work in the healthcare environment, I now understand the healthcare system better. As the Patient Access Director, I am responsible for implementing the policies and procedures to manage a medical practice. When we execute policies and procedures, we always consider the struggles, barriers, and sacrifices our community faces when seeking medical attention—understanding that our community finds it hard to navigate the health system for various reasons which leads to a lack of access to a medical home for them.
I know I have one chance to gain patient trust by offering the immediate medical assistance they are searching for. Luckily, we are now offering same-day medical appointments for new patients from our neighborhood. These same-day appointments have changed our presence in the community. We are now more accessible. Receiving a walk-in appointment is an opportunity to become someone's medical home. A medical home where we not only heal bodies and minds, but also assist our patients as they learn to navigate the healthcare system. Same-day appointments grant easy access to quality healthcare to the most vulnerable population of Atlanta, regardless of social and economic background or health insurance status. By offering same-day appointments, we also contribute to eliminating crowded emergency rooms. This benefits the entire community!
Transportation is another barrier our community faces. But with the help of CVS, Sostento, and Uber Health, we can eliminate roadblocks caused by lack of transportation. All existing and new patients can now receive free or drastically discounted Uber rides to their Good Sam medical appointments. In the last six months, we have granted over 20,0000 Uber rides. Because of the Uber rides, our patients can now schedule and keep all additional key appointments to complete a treatment plan or get chronic diseases under control. I'm happy to see our patients take full advantage of our Full Circle of Health model without the burden of wondering "how will I get to my appointment?" Our focus continues to be on eliminating as many barriers as possible when it comes to access to care. Let's celebrate another important victory in healthcare access!
Patient Access Director
Good Samaritan Health Center
I moved from Northern Virginia to Atlanta specifically for a job at The Good Samaritan Health Center. I had not imagined working at a non-profit before, let alone a faith-based organization. I was excited to continue my career in Public Health, but more so, after my initial interviews, and a bit of firsthand observation, I was heavily moved by the mission. Serving the underserved and low-income community is exactly that, an act of service. I truly believe without being rooted in some kind of faith, the required energy and sustainability to provide acts of service is very low. It has not been easy by any stretch, and that is just a testament to the passion behind the work; striving to do “good” and do better for the people we serve. Patients aren’t numbers, they are people. I am glad I answered God’s call because working at the clinical Community level has made me a more empathetic person and a better Public Health professional.
Upon assuming my position as Health Programs Manager, I learned, of the varying programs for which I would have purview, the Breast Care Program would take the majority of my time. Because of the nature of its funding sources, necessity for patient recruitment and retention, procedural data tracking and reporting, and bill pay processes, it requires constant management from top to bottom. While I did not have much prior knowledge about the technical and medical jargon of breast health, I figured my education and prior work experience would get me through. After all, there is a common intersectionality between health programs, whether chronic illness management, harm reduction, or disease prevention. There is a standard line of thought: provide people the tools and access, remove barriers, educate and make aware, reduce risky behaviors and promote healthy habits… then change and/or compliance will happen. It reads out simple enough, but I now know better. I often say, “If we could bottle behavior change, we would be rich or in a different line of work.” But we’re not here to “make” people do anything. Encourage, not force. We are here to empower them to take agency of their health with a little help from us. I remember in October 2016, I tasked the staff to select a specific day to wear pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Even though I was still kind of new to the role, everyone went along with it. Though it can be minimized into such a small gesture, it was an amazing feeling to see I had the staff’s support. I think back to that and every year since, and that’s how I know my peers have my back, and Good Sam has the back of every patient seeking any kind of Breast Care.
While overseeing the Breast Care Program, I have definitely learned timely annual screening and diagnostic services are the name of the game. Yes, high timely completion rates make my job easier, but they truly are so crucial in catching any abnormality and preventing patients’ deaths. Patients’ wellness will always matter insurmountably more to me than satisfactory reporting numbers. Breast Cancer is the 2nd leading cause of cancer death in Georgia women, claiming approximately 1,100 women’s lives yearly. Incidence of breast cancer death disproportionately affects women of color. I have my own connection as my aunt was diagnosed 2years ago, and she had a twin sister who passed at a very young age from it almost 3 decades ago. I am so grateful to report she was able to get the care and treatment she needed, and she is now in full remission. Because of its high incidence rate, no matter what statistics you look at, chances are you are not very far removed from your own personal connection to breast cancer. The good news is early detection services such as routine screening mammograms, diagnostic mammograms, and breast ultrasounds can decrease the rate of breast cancer mortality by as much as 41%. Diagnosis and beginning treatment before it spreads throughout the body is paramount. In the 7years I have been here, patients of Good Sam who have been diagnosed have had an 89% survivorship; 100% in those who were diagnosed at the screening phase. Knowing that I have been part of a direct impact in their lives by helping so many get breast cancer prevention and treatment services to which they may otherwise not have had access gives me a level of fulfillment I hadn’t experienced before. Also, it doesn’t always take a doctor. Self-breast exams on a monthly basis are beneficial as well. It is important to know what is going on with your body; listen to it and feel when something isn’t right. Don’t ignore pain or new lumps. All in all, do not wait until October to take advantage of the many resources available for breast cancer screening and diagnosis; early detection saves lives!
Health Programs Manager
Good Samaritan Health Center
Ma Pascuala Avelar is a migrant woman from Mexico and she arrived in the United States in 1993. Avelar sacrificed family bonding to achieve her dreams and goals. She left her parents, Alisdasdo Loredo and Gavina Lored on the other side of the border and knew deep in her heart she would probably never be able to hug them or even see them again. She left everything she owned: her culture and beliefs. The only things she could pack were her dreams and goals and the hope to safely and successfully arrive in America. Avelar's dream was for her daughter to one day be bilingual, equipping her with the ability to sufficiently navigate the new reality and pressures of a foreign land and culture. Because of this sacrifice, I am Lizeth Rodriguez, Patient Access Director at Good Samaritan Health and a simultaneous interpreter. However, the biggest title I own is La hija de Dona Ma (daughter of Mrs. Ma). My beautiful mother's sacrifice did not go in vain. Although I grew up with struggles and barriers to accessing basic needs, it made me the woman I am today.
One of the most significant barriers I overcame was living life knowing I was undocumented; my status changed my childhood. I was now living with uncertainties and burdens—feelings and worries a child should never have. Many times, I felt excluded from the American way of life. When I got to high school, these feelings increased when I realized there were many activities I could not participate in because of my status as a citizen. At the same time my peers were getting ready to obtain their driver’s permits. I had no way of obtaining one. In high school, I was the vice president of the French club. The club's main goal was to raise funds for a trip to Paris, France, yet there was no way I could take this trip. When everyone was planning and applying to college, I knew my undocumented status would prohibit me from attending college. With all these barriers, I could only ask myself: where will I work? Where will I live? Will I always live in poverty? Will I ever be able to drive? Will I ever own my home? And the burden continued.
I was determined not to let my mother's sacrifice go in vain. In my mind, I was planning a road map with detours. One that would allow me to obtain all my needs and dreams. Deep down inside, I knew it was possible. I understood it would take time, hard work and creativity. Remember I mentioned that my struggles made me the woman I am today? Much to my surprise, all this planning gave me a skill I proudly possess: problem-solving. This skill has helped me get to places I never knew I could. My status was finally legalized at the age of 17, and it was life-changing.
At 11 years old, I witnessed childbirth for the very first time. I was proud to be the principal interpreter between my cousin and South Fulton's Hospital. After that incident, I realized there was a need that could be met. I realized I could turn my interpreting skills into a career. But most importantly, a job that will allow me to help people genuinely and there is no better way to do so than in Healthcare. Due to 16 years of experience fostered by meaningful and impactful interactions with medical professionals of all devotions and specialties, I have become a professional administrative offering diverse skillset with a wealth of knowledge and a passion for our patients' equitable access. And just like my dear mother, I am now a leader with the goal of stimulating minds and creating more leaders.
I live with the idea that I reside in the land of opportunity and I have a choice. I also acknowledge that life is tricky and throws curve balls and unexpected changes, but I find beauty in all the change and chaos. When chaos comes, we realize the flaws in our streamlined work plan, granting us with a new opportunity to get creative and re-invent the wheel. Another lesson leads us to gain experience and knowledge with the ultimate goal of being successful and becoming better humans. You determine the definition of success.
Patient Access Director
Good Samaritan Health Center
After a much-needed relaxed summer break from an intense kindergarten year, I cringed at the thought of a new school year. Don’t get me wrong my kids love school. We love to see them grow and learn new things, but each school year brings a new set of challenges. In our household we try to make summer laid back and full of fun, all while reinforcing what they learned the previous year and preparing them for the next grade level. My girls spend their summer in camp, and participate in many activities like gymnastics and swim lessons. However, when school begins, the transition is rather difficult because they are used to spending their days filled with fun and excitement.
Some of the biggest challenges we face when starting a new school year include: waking up earlier, getting acquainted with new teachers and how they manage their classroom, going to bed slightly earlier, and overall balancing our full schedules as a family. In all honesty, I was one of those moms that felt my children needed to be in every activity to thrive. I have quickly realized that they really don’t. When school starts back, we usually stop all extracurricular activities for the month of August. Towards the end of August, we will talk with the kids about what activity they want to continue and then resume participating in September. This has been helpful for our girls because it allows them time to get acquainted with their new teacher and schedule and focus on school.
After talking to a close friend about how we were struggling with our morning routine, I decided to adopt something she was doing with her children. I created a morning and evening routine chart for each of my children. The chart gives them simple instructions on what to do each morning once they wake up and before they go to bed at night. This has actually made my girls feel empowered and independent. Since starting this new routine our mornings have gone smoother. I noticed the small adjustments work the best with my children. Some of the small things include: doing morning affirmations, putting encouraging quotes in their lunch boxes, incorporating different ways to do homework, doing homework in different settings and also allowing them to unwind before starting homework. We have now reached the second month of school and we are pretty acquainted with our new schedule and are in the groove of things.
Finding a schedule that works for you and your family is a very important detail for a successful school year. As parents, our schedules are hectic and most of us struggle with managing everything. I will leave you with a few tips that have helped my family tremendously and I hope you will find them useful as well:
- Encourage your kids.
- Create a balanced schedule.
- Learn your children’s learning style.
- Prepare for each day the night before.
- Don’t overload your children’s schedule.
- Remember your kids are still learning so show them grace.
- Allow your children to take a break before starting homework.
- Complete homework in different settings (outside, library, or using objects).
Adjusting to a new school year or any other significant change in your life can be challenging for anyone. If you feel like you or a family member is struggling beyond your ability to cope, we strongly recommend you talk with a therapist, your primary care provider, or your child’s pediatrician and receive the support you need to thrive. If you are uninsured or underinsured and need help accessing these resources, please contact us.
Good Samaritan Health Center
Trust me when I say that it is highly unusual for funders to ask “if you could get funding for a dream project, what would you do and why?” And that makes sense, right? We’re a nonprofit. We live hand to mouth most of the time, relying on the generosity of others so we can continue to care for our neighbors. Our work needs to be measurable, evidence-based, and consistent. Our donors need to know that we are a good and safe place to invest their resources. And this suits my personality just fine. I like the stability and steadiness of keeping things moving along, with excellence and good data.
So, when Direct Relief approached us in late spring 2021 and asked “what innovative ideas do you have for addressing the inequities that further health disparities?” and “what if we gave you the money to try?”, I was dumbfounded. Breanna wasn’t though. This chance to dream and problem solve suits her well. We make a good team.
Direct Relief is a staple in the humanitarian and free and charitable care communities both in the U.S. and abroad. Their more than 70-year history is rich with respectful emergency response, aiding refugees, and providing medical resources and supplies to organizations like Good Sam, free of charge. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Direct Relief not only devoted themselves to meeting immediate needs like testing, PPE and oxygen supplies, emergency funding, and vaccine access, but also creating opportunities for service organizations to respond to the social determinants of health for populations who would once again be disproportionately affected by the pandemic for years to come. The Fund for Health Equity was established at Direct Relief with the help of the AbbVie Foundation and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott. This fund supports community health centers and other community-based organizations as they address health disparities through programs designed to diversify the health care workforce, overcome health outcome barriers, and support digital health as an access point.
We went all in with our application to the fund last year, addressing as many of their focus areas as possible in hopes they would like one of the programs we suggested. Imagine our surprise and gratitude when they decided to make it possible for us to pursue all of them! Beginning in August 2021, the Fund for Health Equity allowed us to expand access to case managers for our patients, expand our Market offerings and provide food vouchers for patients and neighbors to shop free of charge, and expand our coveted internship programs to marginalized individuals through intentional recruitment and by being able to offer generous stipends for the first time in our history.
As our funding year with Direct Relief draws to a close, we are incredibly grateful for everything they made possible over the last 365 days. We dreamed big, with the hope we could do more to help, and we did! We’ve handed out nearly 6,000 vouchers for neighbors to shop at our Market. We’ve added peanut butter, brown rice, sunflower oil, and more to our already great selection of certified-naturally grown produce. Our Community Outreach Manager, Market Manager, and Wellness Director, all of whom you’ve heard from in previous blog posts, received salary support in their efforts to go into the community and provide knowledge about and access to the work that happens on our campus. Our case managers, Erika and Monica, were able to meet with hundreds of patients in need of additional services and connect them to community resources that will help stabilize their daily lives and give them a better chance at health. We got to spend time with interns, like Anusha, Ashanti, Justice, and Ayanna, who taught us as much, if not more, than we taught them.
This experience with Direct Relief has been educational and encouraging. And the next time someone asks to fund our dreams, I’ll be ready!
Chief Development Officer
Good Samaritan Health Center
There are approximately 1,400 free and charitable clinics scattered throughout the U.S. The number of Federally Qualified Health Centers also hovers right around 1,400. These clinics, along with their satellites and multiple service locations, create the nation’s health care safety net. The term safety net is used to describe health care for people without insurance, those with Medicaid, or those experiencing poverty. It conjures up an image of people falling through the gaps in a nation where access to health care is tied to insurance, income, and employment. While this is true, the safety net is also described as a last resort or a lower tier of health care. The longer I work at Good Sam and the more I connect with colleagues working in health centers like us across the U.S., the more I am convinced that these neighborhood health centers represent the very best of health care.
We deliver quality, evidence-based care, and are willing to do the case management, partnership-building, and fundraising it requires to do what is best for every single person. We also recognize that health care is only one part of building healthy lives. Whether it’s fresh produce, exercise classes, Uber rides to visits, the prayer line, free medication, or care packages for new moms, our goal is to surround our community with what they need to live a healthy life. Yet, what is most unique and powerful about the work we do is the way we know our patients beyond the numbers and symptoms listed in their charts. We know their stories and families. We know their favorite foods at The Market, their prayer requests, and what kind of toothbrush they use. We know where they work, where their grandchild is going to college, the addictions they left behind, the ones they are still fighting, their celebrations and their pain. Everyone at Good Samaritan works to create a space in which people are seen and loved.
At Good Samaritan, our mission is, “spreading Christ’s love through quality health care to those in need.” We start our morning with a time of devotion and prior to COVID, when hanging out indoors with large groups of people was safe, we would invite patients to join us in this time. One of my colleagues would remove her shoes and stand barefoot in the lobby each time she gave devotion. “This is holy ground,” she told me.
I am reminded of her words almost daily at the clinic. When a team member stays late to wait with a patient for her ride to come, it’s holy ground. When a dental assistant calls a patient’s daughter because she is worried he seems a bit more confused than usual, it’s holy ground. When a farmer invites a patient to sit under the pecan trees and rest, it’s holy ground. When a provider skips lunch because a patient is crying and isn’t ready to leave, it’s holy ground. I have never felt closer to God than when I am at the clinic, working alongside my colleagues as they do this work in beautiful ways each day.
In the words of one of our patients, “I love the staff. This is the best clinic I’ve ever been to. Not only the support, but I can consider them as my friends. You can just speak and have a little conversation, and feel like these people really care about me. Feeling that you matter to somebody, no matter what your circumstances or where you’re coming from.” Our patients matter to God and they matter to us.
This National Health Center Week is a good reminder to all of the holy work happening across our country. An encouragement that, though there is a lot of darkness in the world right now, 1,400 fellow Centers are committed to bringing light and hope and safety.
Breanna Lathrop Chief Operations Officer
Good Samaritan Health Center
The start of the Second Quarter is always an exciting time on the farm. It’s time to harvest the first fruits of the year’s harvest as it’s the start of The Market season. The first morning of The Market feels inspiring and motivating, especially this year being able to operate out of the new pavilion space. We arrive at an early hour, get out all of the harvesting equipment that hasn’t been seen since the cold days of December, put on some music, and get to harvesting. Harvesting is a lot of work, but there is something gratifying about pulling 10 pounds of carrots out of the ground, washing all the dirt off, and revealing their vibrant orange roots and floppy lush greens.
The tricky thing about this time of year is the way it begins with ideal weather but abruptly turns cruel. In April, it’s cool enough to have low pest & weed pressure, most of the danger of frost is gone, and all your crops look like they were grown in Eden. However, that illusion is rudely disrupted by the time the heat of June rolls around. This June came with an unusual two weeks stretch of near 100-degree days, with no rain. Regardless of our 6:00 am start times and access to irrigation, the heat still took a toll on some of our crops and farm staff, causing wilt to both plant and person. Thankfully, most of our crops bounced back, as did all of our farm team.
As for the farm team, we have been fortunate to be joined by two seasonal farm hands this year. Hannah Burton will be with us through the fall and Katherine McWhirter will be with us during her summer break from college. This powerhouse team of women has started off the farm season strong, and we are incredibly thankful for these extra sets of capable hands.
The other ladies of the farm are our bees. There is a lot we know about them, but they still throw mysterious curveballs our way. One April morning, our center hive decided it was time to swarm, making a mass Exodus beyond the kudzu-lined walls of the farm. They were a strong and active hive, so their departure left us and our advisors scratching our heads. When May rolled around, one of our remaining hives mysteriously was without a queen. Attempts were made to give it a new one, but the ladies failed to follow through with a coronation and the hive succumbed to hive beetles. Cleaning the hive of the beetles, there were a few thousand bees left and in need of a home. Alexis successfully experimented with combining these stranded ladies into the neighboring hive. Since then, the hive has been thriving and making gobs of honey. We will give them more time to build their supply before trying to harvest and will return the other two hives at the beginning of next year.
This is an entertaining and busy time of the year. It is a revolving door of out with the old, in with the new. There’s a clear shift from spring into summer crops, creating a gratifying transition of change. The farm is fully staffed, the bees keep us on our toes, and the market is bustling with customers. The excitement of the farm really begins in April and tends to quiet to more a steady pace in mid to late fall. At which point we start looking to the slower days of winter when we begin to rest more and plan for the next year when it all starts back up again.
Good Samaritan Health Center
To help the Farm and Market grow, follow the link to donate to Good Sam Today!
When Good Samaritan Health Center moved to its current location on Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway, our goal was to not only address accessible healthcare within the community but also to address other social determinants that might affect one’s health, such as access to healthy food. Good Sam is located right in the middle of a federally identified food desert, meaning that our neighbors have to travel more than 1 mile to access a food store that sells healthy produce and nutritional products, so they rely primarily on Dollar General, convenience stores, or fast food in the area. As you can imagine, this creates more chronic diseases within the population, further perpetuating the circle of inequality for our priority zip codes 30318 & 30314.
In an effort to address this social determinant of health, our 1-acre of land behind Good Sam was purchased, and the Urban Farm was conceived in 2013. A year later, we launched the first CSA membership program and added the foodRx prescription program, which at the time, 10 of our patients were able to receive a weekly share. Since its inception, the Market has steadily seen an increase in encounters each year.
In 2017, as part of a capital campaign, Good Sam purchased the building that loosely stood next door, demolished it, and began building a wellness center that would host the YMCA of Metro Atlanta. In addition, we also began constructing a larger pavilion that would become a permanent farmer’s market space for the expanding farm and food access efforts. Construction started in 2017 and was finished in 2020. However, due to COVID-19, the spaces weren’t officially open until April 30th of this year.
Since the Grand Opening of The Market Pavilion, we have not only received a lot of positive feedback about our new space, but we have also been able to partner with multiple farm vendors, expanding our selection of certified naturally grown produce. We now sell our own variety of produce as well as some pantry staple items from these farmers, such as peanut butter from Koinonia Farms, red and black beans, and brown rice from 1,000 Spring Mill. We are currently looking for more partners to work with and welcome any connections.
A loyal customer, Ms. Mattie Howard, told me she loves the new Market space for several reasons: our additional seated areas, new vendors, and new gates created at the Market. We now have an educational book area, where books range from DIY gardening techniques to the evolution of butterflies. I am excited that more children have taken an interest in our books.
The most important and rewarding addition to our Market this season has been the opening of our community gates, which has allowed us to interact with more of our neighbors and community residents, often allowing for ministry opportunities to pray over those who need it.
The opening of the gates has also led to an increase in new faces. With each day, we are seeing more and more from the community stop by and shop. Another tremendous help to the Market has been our increased engagement on social media platforms. Our Instagram page has brought us customers from different areas of metro Atlanta. We have received positive feedback, genuine curiosity, and an influx of questions ranging from farming to gardening. The vision for the Market is to connect with our community and provide them with nutritious food at an affordable price, and we are sticking to that. I am excited for the next phase of our growth.
Community Outreach and Market Manager
Good Samaritan Health Center
To help the Farm and Market grow, follow the link to donate to Good Sam Today!
Trigger and Content Warning: this post contains references to pregnancy and child loss.
Good Samaritan Health Center's Prenatal Program is one of the most important parts of the clinic's ministries and has served thousands of patients since its inception in 2000. I have been honored to work with many strong mamas as a nurse practitioner in this program. In days filled with chronic disease, sick visits, and pain, it's lovely to work with moms who are generally healthy, happy, and excited. The commitment and drive that moms have to do everything they can to help their baby never fails to amaze and motivate me. No matter the circumstance, whether the mom has been trying to get pregnant for years or if the pregnancy is a less-than-welcomed surprise, the mothers I've worked with express joy at the prospect of the new life growing in her belly. I love being a part of this journey!
Kelly Hudson, a nurse practitioner, and midwife, started the prenatal program in response to needs that Dr. Warren saw in the moms of his pediatric patients. Kelly still works at Good Sam today and has passed on her vast knowledge in this area and of this program to me! The program has grown and evolved over the years, but the general structure is: patients pay an affordable, one-time fee, which is waived for unhoused patients, and the mom will complete all of her prenatal care at Good Sam. Then from 36 weeks to birth, our wonderful collaborating physician, Dr. Lathan Overstreet, takes over care. Once the baby is born, mom and her new little joy return for two postpartum visits, which are included in the original payment. Our program is for low-risk pregnancies only. Should a woman become high risk, Dr. Overstreet may help guide us in mom's continued care, take over care entirely, or refer the mom to another physician. Dr. Overstreet always makes himself available for any questions we have, no matter how basic or complex, and we are very blessed by his service!
Unfortunately, we don't offer ultrasounds on-site because that would require a specialist to read them. Patients are currently paying out of pocket for ultrasounds that can run anywhere from $150 to $450. We are looking for other more affordable options or an ultrasound partner that will honor our fee scale; please join us in prayer over this need!
The majority of my experiences in the Good Sam Prenatal Program have been a delight. However, one of my worst fears became a reality for one of our prenatal patients. At 38 weeks gestation, her baby died in utero. A healthy, problem-free pregnancy, which was already at term and completely viable, ended. This mom had to endure labor only to say goodbye. I still cry when I think about it, but this terrible experience also highlights why Good Sam's prenatal program is so vital to the community. This baby was completely healthy, and there was nothing that the mom or any medical provider could have done to prevent the loss. The umbilical cord wrapped around the fetus's neck, and she passed. An awful experience that could have been worse without a supportive care environment. Imagine losing a term pregnancy with no medical support to make you understand that there was nothing you or anyone else could have done to prevent this loss. Imagine not being connected to counseling and a grief support group and going through this all alone. I was with this patient from her first trimester all the way through the birth of her next child, a healthy baby boy. When mom lost her first baby, I was grateful to be in a place where I could pray with her, talk with her, connect her to mental health resources, and follow up on her. I never want any mom to have to go through this awful experience ever again, but when pregnancy does develop problems, I am grateful to be there for that mother and connect her to the resources Good Sam affords.
I've seen moms do amazing things once they've learned that their baby needs something. For instance, giving up ice cream and all sweets once they learn they have gestational diabetes – if you've been pregnant, you know what a feat this is! I've seen a mom who was living in a tent with her partner reconnect with her estranged mother to provide care for her new baby. There was one mother who couldn't seem to gain weight. Eventually, she told me that she simply doesn't have enough to eat and that any food the family gets goes to her children. This mother, who didn't speak English, had suddenly become a solo parent when her partner was deported. She had no idea how she would support her growing family. When the Good Sam Farm team was notified, they had a bag of fresh produce and other donations every time this patient came to visit, whether or not she had an appointment. When this same mother couldn't produce enough milk to breastfeed, we were able to start the medication to increase her supply, and the baby thrived. I've heard many stories from my midwife friends of new moms showing up at the hospital in the middle of labor, having had no prenatal care. The problems that could have been prevented are numerous, such as poor prenatal nutrition, rapid drops in the baby's blood glucose due to untreated, gestational diabetes, birth defects from simply not using a prenatal vitamin, or unsafe domestic/living situations because a patient doesn't know her resources. It hurts to know that so many pregnant women forego prenatal care because of price, fear of documentation status, fear of judgment, or simply not being able to make prenatal visits. Good Sam tries to remove these barriers and welcome expectant mothers in need with open arms. There's even a free uber health service to get mom to her appointments if she doesn't have access to transportation.
It has been a tremendous gift to be part of Good Sam's prenatal program, where uninsured, under-insured, and underserved women can access prenatal care. Everyone on the team does their best to create the healthiest pregnancies, mothers, babies, and postpartum periods as possible. It's not a perfect program; we need increased financial support, ultrasound access, and a social worker to better address the complex needs of our patients. There's always room to grow, and I pray that we can continue to do just that.
Catherine Stump FNP-BC
Family Nurse Practitioner
Good Samaritan Health Center
To help our program grow, follow the link to donate to Good Sam's prenatal program today!
An at-home garden has many benefits: plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, health benefits, not to mention instant access to fresh produce. It's always exciting to see a fruit or vegetable you grew yourself end up on your kitchen table. Growing your food gives you a unique perspective of nature that you wouldn't have otherwise.
If you are nervous about being a first-time grower, remember that every farmer or grower has to start somewhere! If you are a seasoned grower, there is no time like the present to try something new! Whether you have a yard, balcony, or a small green space, there is always something you can grow. Not sure where to start? Check out these recommendations from our farmers here at Good Sam!
- Look for the sun. Most plants prefer 6-8 hours of light. However, if this isn't realistic for your plants, we suggest growing vegetables that need more shade, such as greens.
- Build a raised bed. Use clean soil, landscape fabric, and strong wood like cedar, or cinder blocks, to create your border. Avoid pressure-treated lumber to eliminate concerns of contamination. If you're planting directly into your yard rather than a raised bed, we suggest conducting a soil test which you can do yourself with the help of information from the UGA extension agency.
- Try a container garden. Many of your favorite veggies can grow happily in pots given the right size and support. Terracotta pots or anything that's well-draining is the way to go. Avoid the plastic pots that come from a garden center. They tend to drain quickly, causing your soil to dry out.
What to Grow
Summer is a great time to start a garden! Get familiar with crops that grow well this time of year and in your area. Determine which agricultural zone you are located in to determine which plants to grow. If you're in the Atlanta area, you will be either 8a or 7b. Crops like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant are great options to begin with and will grow well in either container or the ground. There's also a fantastic app called "Seed to Spoon" which shows growing guides, what to plant during what time of the year, the health benefits of eating those crops, and even what kinds of pests to look out for in your plants and how to treat it.
How to Grow:
- Get planting! If you are starting plants from seed, pay close attention to the directions on the seed packet. If you are planting transplants bought from a garden center or local grower, look up each plant's spacing and planting directions.
- Cover the soil. Using a mulch such as leaves or wood chips will help keep your plants cool in the heat because it allows water to stay retained in the soil.
- Keep your watering consistent and avoid overwatering, which can create root rot. However, in the summer, you will have to water your garden more to account for the heat. A simple tip for determining the watering needs for in-ground plants is to put your finger into the soil about to your knuckle. If it's dry, it's time for some watering. It's better to underwater than overwater your plants. You can always add more. Water in the morning or the evening to help the plants retain the most water. For more tips and tricks check out Gardening Know How for helpful articles.
If you keep up with these key gardening elements, you will soon be enjoying your first harvest! You are also welcome to stop by The Farm at Good Sam and chat with us about what we do to keep our crops happy and healthy this time of year.
Nobie Muhl and Alexis Haggerty
Farm Manager and Assistant Farm Manager
Good Samaritan Health Center
Looking to contribute to our farm? Please contact Bianca Long at email@example.com for volunteer opportunities or make a donation here.
While the summer can be a time of recharge, reconnection, and relaxation for some, for others, the summer months can be quite the opposite. Longer days, increased humidity and heat, as well as body image issues, can all trigger poor health and feelings of anxiety and depression, even when the expectation is to be carefree. Although summer can bring about new experiences, it is important to use this time to take care of both your physical and mental health.
Looking to avoid that summertime funk? Check out these 9 tips below!
- Stay physically active. There’s nothing wrong with occasionally binge-watching your favorite television series, but it’s also imperative that you participate in physical activity as well. Whether it’s going to the gym or taking a walk outside, be sure to get 20-30 minutes a day of exercise.
- Drink plenty of water. Water significantly affects energy levels and how your brain functions.
- Write down everything that has you feeling stressed or uneasy. You’d be surprised that writing down your worries is not only therapeutic, but it gives you a chance to visualize and set goals accordingly.
- Make a summer music playlist. Not only does music have the power to both calm and excite you, but it has also been proven effective for stress management and relaxation. There’s nothing better than driving with the windows down and listening to your favorite song!
- Try something new. There’s no time like the present! Now is the perfect time to get out of your comfort zone and learn a new skill or pick up a new hobby.
- Reconnect with others. Whether it’s catching up with an old friend over lunch or spending the day at the park, spend time with the ones you love.
- Maintain a healthy sleep schedule. While it seems easier to go into hibernation mode during the winter months, sleep is just as important during the summertime. Be sure you are getting your proper rest and avoid staying up late. It is recommended that we get 8-10 hours of uninterrupted sleep.
- Take time for prayer, reflection, or meditation. You’d be surprised at how powerful spending 10 minutes in reflection is!
- Make time for the things you love to do. Whether it’s painting, cooking, riding a bike, or even volunteering be sure to incorporate a least one activity that makes you smile.
Looking to get involved in the community? You can give or volunteer at Good Sam! Contact Bianca Long at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
As I began my senior year of college, I remember feeling lost and overwhelmed as I needed direction on how to pursue a career in medicine amid a global pandemic. I heard through the grapevine that a friend of mine had been accepted into a Physician Assistant program, so I decided to give her a call hoping she could offer me some much-needed advice. She told me about an internship she had at a clinic down the road from our school. This was the first time I heard the name “Good Sam.” At the time, I only considered it something to look into, but I now recognize it as one of my greatest gifts from God.
COVID-19 allowed me to serve my local community in a way I could have never imagined. I first joined Good Sam’s Helpline SOS team to help others defend themselves and their families from the virus, but after witnessing the dedicated compassion of the team, I deeply desired to do more for Good Sam. I was then given the opportunity to get involved in their medical internship program, where I began to foster relationships with the staff. Specifically, Good Sam’s Medical Service Coordinator, Treanda "Tre" Smith. She has played a crucial role in not only my medical training, but she has become one of my dearest friends. She embodies the mission of Good Sam: spreading Christ’s love through quality healthcare to those in need. She loves every patient that steps through our door with her infectious personality. Tre, along with all my other coworkers, have shown me what high-quality, holistic medical care looks like. Now working there full-time as a medical assistant, I have engaged with families from all walks of life, including a portion of Atlanta’s homeless population, who have forever changed my outlook on healthcare.
Graham Bryant (left) and Treanda Smith (right)
In my nearly one year of employment at the Center, I have learned so much about the hardships many of our patients face in acquiring their human right to quality healthcare. For example, the challenges of a language barrier hit me like a freight train. Before working at Good Sam, I had never realized the hindrance it can cause for individuals seeking specialist care. To combat this at Good Sam, we personally communicate with the specialty care clinics to schedule our patients’ appointments and confirm a translator will be available for them. Another obstacle for our patients is navigating financial assistance programs. My coworkers and I break down the complicated applications with our patients to ensure they have what they need to provide as documentation. Finally, I am beyond grateful for our case managers, Monica and Erika, who work tirelessly to assist patients with specific needs such as stable housing or applying for government assistance. Compassionate acts of this caliber are why I love working at Good Sam. We are a family that is dedicated to serving our patients to the best of our ability, and we all bring unique gifts to the table to provide them with the medical care they deserve.
My journey thus far has allowed me to cultivate relationships with people that are passionate about making a change in their community. I have the privilege of working among some of the most fearless leaders at Good Sam, who have instilled in me the desire to fight for the underserved. My experience at Good Sam has provided me with a solid foundation for my education in the medical field and has shed light on communities suffering from a lack of healthcare. Good Sam continues to prepare me to serve marginalized groups in an effort to bridge the health disparity gap, and I promise to dedicate my future career to providing quality healthcare to those that need it most.
Good Samaritan Health Center
An event nearly two years in the making, the Grand Opening of the Market Pavilion and Wellness Center was one for the books! This past Saturday, we officially opened these two new spaces with one goal in mind: to better serve our patient population and to remind our community that we are not only there for them in service but there for them in friendship. The day’s festivities included a ribbon-cutting ceremony, COVID vaccinations, memory screens, interactive experiences, food, and fun!
As the day began, community members were greeted by our staff and volunteer with a smile and information on all things Good Sam. Upon arrival, participants were able to venture outside of the Center, where they received general information about our Guest Services, dental hygiene, as well as information on COVID-19 vaccines and memory screens.
Our newly expanded market was also a huge staple of the day as community members were able to shop for Certified Naturally Grown produce from our 1-acre urban farm.
“In the Good Samaritan Health Center’s endeavor to address the social determinants of health, we created The Full Circle of Health model. A key component of The Circle is healthy nutrition which is where our Market comes in. Local growers will be able to set up their fresh produce daily for sale to our neighbors. In so doing, our neighbors will have a large variety of accessible, inexpensive food. Think of food going directly from your own backyard, right to your table for consumption. It can’t be any fresher!” says Dr. Bill Warren, Founder, CEO & Pediatrician.
(left to right): Audrey Clark – Good Samaritan Market Manager, Brittney Greenwood - YMCA Regional wellness Director, Heather Kersey – Good Samaritan Chief Development Officer, Councilman Byron Amos, Dr. Bill Warren - Founder of Good Samaritan & Pediatrician, Peyton McWhirter - Good Samaritan Board Chair, Lauren Koontz - President & CEO of YMCA Metro Atlanta, Bianca Long - Good Samaritan Development Coordinator
During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Dr. Bill reminded us that both spaces represent a commitment to health, and it is a part of our mission to use these spaces to provide quality healthcare to those in need. He also went on to thank donors, volunteers, and participants and expressed that the new spaces would not have been possible without community support. The ceremony also included remarks from Lauren Koontz, the President & CEO, YMCA of Metro Atlanta, and Brittney Greenwood, Regional Wellness Director, YMCA, and Audrey Clark, Good Sam’s Market Manager, all expressing their gratitude and excitement for what’s to come in these new spaces.
After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the interactive tours began with our staff and volunteers leading the way to share Good Sam’s origin, amenities, and services. Not only was it a chance to learn a little history about Good Sam, but it was a chance to see first-hand how the Market Pavilion, Y at Good Sam, The Farm, and The Center all operate.
Overall, the Grand Opening was a huge success, and we want to extend a special thank you to all those who were a part of the special day, including donors, residents, community members, and volunteers. We cannot wait to see how these two new spaces are put to use to help better serve our community.
Be sure to check our social media for the next big event. See you soon!
2021 was a traumatic year for my family when both my grandparents suddenly became ill. Fortunately, my grandmother has been a patient of the Good Samaritan Health Center since 2016, so in February when my aunt called me with the concern that my grandmother’s feet had swollen up tremendously, I scheduled her the first appointment I could find. Checking her in, she looked well; she looked like my sweet loving grandma, so I was not very worried about her visit with the provider. I had just transitioned to the Guest Services team and continued to work my second Saturday as a Guest Services Associate, trying not to dwell on my Grandmother’s visit.
At the end of the workday, I went to my car and waited for my grandma to finish her appointment. I called my aunt, who brought her to her appointment, and she answered the phone crying. She said my grandma was not well. I ran back inside Good Sam where Breanna and her medical assistant were reopening the doors that I had just closed for the day. Breanna knew I was new to the guest services team so she said “Hi Jimmy, we are done for the day, you are free to go home. We are just opening the doors for a patient that needs to go to the hospital.” I responded back, “I believe that is for my grandma.”
I ran back to my grandma’s room where her medical provider, Kelly, was about to close the door when I said, “That’s my grandmother in there”. Kelly’s face quickly changed learning that her patient was my grandma. I saw my Abuela, and she looked nervous and scared, and my aunt was trying her best to hold back her tears. Kelly informed us that my grandma was at high risk for a stroke and needed to go to the hospital. My grandma was terrified of going to the hospital. She believed she would not come out alive because she had heard stories of different friends and family members tragically passing away at the hospital. Kelly prayed over and with my grandma. She prayed that my grandma would seek emergency care, and not head home instead. Kelly’s life-saving prayer and attention convinced my grandma to seek emergency treatment where she received a pacemaker and is feeling much better thanks to the level of attention and care she was provided at Good Sam.
A few months passed by, and the Delta variant was spreading like a deadly wildfire. My grandpa got sick with the variant and unfortunately passed away from COVID in August of 2021 in Mexico. I wish he could have traveled during the pandemic to Atlanta because I am confident that Good Sam would have had him in good health to face the pandemic, and treat him once he contracted COVID.
This was a big blow to my entire family and although I wish he could have been cared for by Good Sam. I understand now that my grandpa worked his entire life, and God wanted him, in His holy glory, to rest eternally. I know one thing for sure is that my Abuela would not be here if it was not for the Good Samaritan Health Center and our Christ-loving employees who helped her in time.
Patients come to my window all day, and my daily mission is to give back that same compassion and love my Abuela was given. Whenever I face patients who want to be treated, tested, and protected from COVID, I pray and help as if they were my own family. Whenever a patient is requesting an appointment, I seek to give them the first available one, just as my Abuela was given. Whenever I am at Good Sam I look to love patients with all my heart, all my being, all my strength, and all my mind, as if it were myself. I am proud to work for the Good Samaritan Health Center because I see our care transform lives every day.
Guest Services Associate
Good Samaritan Health Center
My journey to Good Sam begins almost exactly 10 years ago in Columbus, Georgia. I was working as a high school science teacher and feeling a deep calling toward the medical field and serving my neighbors through healthcare access. At the time, it made the most sense to pursue medical school. I had completed the admission prerequisites and my basic science knowledge was fresh from my years of teaching. As I let the school system know I would not be renewing my contract and explained the desires of my heart to disappointed administrators, parents, and students, a thoughtful family shared with me that there just happened to be a new ministry opening in downtown Columbus with a mission of “proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord and demonstrating His love through quality, affordable healthcare for those in need.” Perhaps I could volunteer with them and gain firsthand healthcare experience while I went through the year long medical school application process…
Two weeks later, I began volunteering full-time at MercyMed of Columbus. And in that one decision, the trajectory of my life changed forever.
I loved everything about working in the clinic. Because we were a skeleton staff addressing a massive need in our city, I was able to serve in every capacity within the organization. I worked the front desk. I scheduled appointments. I scanned in lab results to our EMR. I badgered specialists in the area to see our patient referrals. I applied for prescription assistance to get our patients yearly supplies of the expensive medications they needed. I drained wounds and injected knees. I fell in love with the people we were serving and learned more every day about the social determinants of health that made ministries like this necessary.
Fast forward a few months and I really needed to earn some income! The clinic only had three paid staff at that time and I knew there was not a paying role for me there, but I was committed to continuing to volunteer anyway. I was looking for a part-time job when the founder of MercyMed, Dr. Grant Scarborough, said they really wanted to find something within the clinic that I could do, but the only salary line they could justify at that time was for a development person. “Sure!” I said, “Also, what is a development person?” Dr. Scarborough explained all the ins and outs of how nonprofit organizations survive on various streams of philanthropy and that the role of development is to spread the word, far and wide, of the good work happening within the organization so that donors, volunteers, businesses, churches, and government entities are impassioned to join us! Are you kidding me? I could get paid for doing that!? Dr. Scarborough began to set up meetings for me to meet and learn from leaders within local family foundations, corporate giving arms of area businesses, and local government representatives.
Then he said “And what you really need to do is go up to Atlanta and visit The Good Samaritan Health Center. Learn about everything they do and bring those skills back here.”
So I did. Good Sam had just moved into their new space on the Westside of Atlanta. The farm land had been cleared, the building smelled and looked brand new. I was in awe of everything I saw. I sat in on a diabetes education class. I met with the development team and received advice and copies of their collateral to take back to Columbus with me. Seeing what MercyMed could grow into with the right leadership, the right plan, and the right resources invigorated me even more for the work of development. I vowed right then and there that I would do everything in my power to make MercyMed the “Good Sam of Columbus”.
I settled into my role quickly. Looking back, I realize I also settled into my calling. Time marched on. I was waitlisted for medical school. And I was very at peace with that. I had found how I was meant to serve people in need through healthcare. Isn’t it just like God to take our dreams and bring them about in a way that we never would have imagined? My husband graduated from architecture school and we were moving “home” to Atlanta. I was heartbroken to leave MercyMed. Of course, Good Sam wasn’t hiring at the time. What was I going to do with this skillset and this calling?
I spent the next five years working in Advancement for Emory University. I gained skills and education in every area of development work, from marketing to event planning to major donor relationship building. I learned more about healthcare and public health, as I raised funds for the School of Medicine and the incredible research happening there. I became a mom. And every day I drove from my home on the Westside to Emory, down Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway, past Good Samaritan Health Center, and asked the Lord for another opportunity to do what I loved most.
And then in April 2021, I got a voicemail that would once again change my life and remind me that God is mysterious and good and always working. Dr. Bill Warren called me and said, “I can’t tell you how I know or what I know, but if you’re interested in making a change and joining us at Good Sam, I would really like to talk to you.”
And here I am. Serving as the Chief Development Officer for the last year has been a literal dream come true. Leading our development efforts and guiding this team to even greater work in the community has been fulfilling in ways I never thought possible. I’m so grateful for the adventure the Lord led me on over the last decade that brought me here. I laughed to myself as I reviewed the marketing collateral for the Center in my early days here. The Full Circle of Health is a commitment Good Sam made to this community from its founding. There is an understanding that it’s all connected and important in the quality of life of our patients. My full circle story with Good Sam shows me the same thing. There were certainly times that I felt lost, like I had missed a turn or an opportunity. However, as I look back I see the intentionality in every season, the lessons I needed to learn to prepare me for this time.
Chief Development Officer
Good Samaritan Health Center
I remember when the fear and uncertainty of COVID-19 first struck in March 2020. I would come to work and go home with a sense of hopelessness and defeat because, at the time, I was uncertain what I could contribute to make things better for my family, community, and Good Sam. It bothered me because even though I was on the frontline, I felt that I should have been doing more to help fight this COVID battle. Honestly, I didn’t know what that looked like for me, so I prayed about it and asked God to show me, and waited for him to do so.
When news of the COVID-19 vaccine first came out, my initial thought was, “How did they develop this so fast?” I had so many questions, but like others, I was reluctant to ask. I was convinced that my family was not getting the vaccine. I can recall being in a setting where people would talk about it, and I would become quiet and timid. I didn’t want to deal with the judgment about not wanting to get the vaccine, and I didn’t want to be convinced to get it either. I remember getting an email from our COO, Breanna Lathrop, about Good Sam applying to become a Pandemic Vaccine Provider. Even throughout the application process and completing the required training, my mind was still made up. Of course, we were approved.
January 11, 2021:
The day Good Sam received our first shipment of
COVID-19 vaccines, 100 doses of Moderna.
I remember the rush of excitement I felt opening that box. I also recall feeling convicted because I was preparing to give patients a vaccination that I was not sure I believed in. I went home and prayed. The next day Breanna announced a staff training designed to help us educate and answer patient questions about the COVID-19 vaccine. After that session, I felt relieved. I felt a sense of clarity and was much more knowledgeable about the vaccine.
January 13, 2021:
Good Sam administers the first round of COVID-19 vaccines.
We vaccinated a total of 40 staff and volunteers. I remember going into my office for lunch and praying for God for direction and peace. That day, I received my 1st dose. I felt a sense of peace. The next day we vaccinated 20 additional staff members and volunteers. I knew that I had done the right thing. I couldn’t let my guard down all the way, but I could breathe a little easier. As I reflected over the months between March 2020 and January 2021, how much anxiety, fear, and uncertainty COVID had caused in my life, I realized that this was the one thing that I could do to protect my family. This drove my compassion toward myself and in educating other hesitant people about the vaccination.
Throughout the last 13 months, I have been able to share my story with many people from diverse backgrounds and educate them on the vaccine. I have been vulnerable with patients and community members and, in doing so, allowed them to feel that their own emotions are valid. Compared to when this pandemic first started, I now know exactly what my part is in this fight. Being a part of the COVID vaccination clinics during the week and pop-up clinics in the community over the last year has been an absolute honor and pleasure.
Ericka Stanley, MHA
Good Samaritan Health Center
I saw a patient recently who has been coming to the clinic for the past four years. He is in his early twenties and has been in and out of shelters most of the time we have known him. He came in without an appointment, as he usually does, and sat in our lobby for the morning. He charged his phone and talked with team members as they went about their work. They greeted him by name, and someone found him a snack. The medical assistants showed him to an empty exam room where he could rest while he waited for me. When I got to his room after seeing a morning of scheduled patients, we talked for a bit about what he had been doing over the last few weeks and where he would be sleeping this week. After talking for a while, he told me he didn’t really need anything from me. He came because he missed us and really likes it here at the clinic. He told me he feels loved. He feels loved because he is seen and known by our team, who show him compassion each time he walks into the clinic.
2021 was another heavy year for our patients, who already disproportionately experience stress and trauma. They experienced deaths of loved ones, illness and hospitalizations, and the long-lasting impact of COVID-19. Our patients also dealt with greater financial insecurity, employment changes, housing changes, closing bus routes, and social isolation. Now, when patients come to the clinic, we aren’t just treating diabetes or an abscessed tooth, but the pain of this past year. Our staff has also experienced the stress of managing life and work in a pandemic. From exposures and quarantine to childcare and school changes to the loss and illness of family members, the clinic has become a place of both shared suffering and needed encouragement between staff and patients.
We often think of Good Sam's mission as showing compassion to our patients;
but throughout this second year of the pandemic,
we have also been on the receiving end of compassion.
I feel it when I botch a sentence in Spanish, and my patient gently offers a better way to express what I was hoping to convey. I experience compassion when I am behind on calling a patient with their lab results, but they answer the phone and immediately ask if we are all doing okay. I have lost count of the number of patients who have told me they are praying for the safety and health of our team. Our patients bring treats to their office visits; one even brought breakfast for the entire team. Once, a patient brought me a home-cooked dinner to her early morning appointment. She woke up at 4:00 a.m. just so I didn’t have to cook that night when I got home. In spite of the burdens they carry, our patients continue to see us and love on us.
The encouragement from our patients, the support of our donors and volunteers, and our deep commitment to this mission allowed us to continue to meet the challenges of the pandemic head-on in 2021. A team of over 60 volunteers and staff members responded to over 16,500 calls on our COVID-19 Helpline. Since administering our first COVID-19 vaccine on January 13, 2021, we have administered 4,403 vaccines and offered over a dozen community pop-up vaccine clinics and education events. In partnership with CVS, we have offered COVID-19 testing to community members of all ages. There was not a single clinic day in 2021 that a patient with acute COVID-19 symptoms was not able to receive care from a Good Sam provider. We did this because it is what our patients and our community deserve. And we enter 2022 ready to do the same.
Breanna Lathrop, DNP, MPH, FNP-BC
Chief Operations Officer
Good Samaritan Health Center
Starting a new job feels like you’re a new character on the ninth season of a TV show: you just feel out of place and it seems like no one really knows what you’re doing there. It brings on new anxieties, challenges, and frustrations. New jobs can cause you to question everything, including God. “Is this where I’m supposed to be?” “What if I don’t fit in?” “Am I even qualified to do this job?” “Did God make some kind of mistake by placing me here?” When I first began my journey at Good Sam, all of these questions and fears came rushing into my head.
Before coming to Good Sam, I was working as a Communications Coordinator in Corporate America and like many others around the world, I had completely onboarded remotely. Working from home was extremely difficult for me. Questions that I would normally be able to ask my desk mate, had we been in the office, often went unanswered leaving me confused and frustrated. I found myself struggling to maintain work/life boundaries and felt completely isolated as I sat at my desk in the corner of my room. Knowing I needed to make a change, I applied to Good Sam.
I started a little over a month ago as Good Sam’s newest Development Coordinator and I could not be happier with my time here so far. Since graduating from college, I have struggled to find a job where I can grow both personally and professionally. Now, I truly believe that I have found a place where not only will I grow in those areas, but I have found a place that I can call home.
Now that I am at Good Sam, my fears have started to subside. I am surrounded by amazing, God-fearing people that are invested in my success just as much as our patients. Being in a Christian-based environment is the biggest blessing I never knew I needed. From the daily morning devotions to seeing how my coworkers care for our patients as well as each other, I am truly inspired and blessed to be around people that motivate me to walk into my purpose.
They say that luck is when an opportunity comes along and you’re prepared for it. And as much as I’d love to tell you all how incredibly lucky I am to be at Good Sam, I can’t. I can’t chalk this incredible place up to luck; I can’t give luck that much credit. Me being at Good Sam has nothing to do with luck and everything to do with God. As I reflect on the things throughout my life that I am most grateful for, I realize that it’s never been provision luck, it’s always God. There’s no amount of luck in the world that’s strong enough to put me in a place as incredible as Good Sam. It has to be God.
Although I’m still finding my bearings, I have no doubt that Good Sam is exactly where I’m supposed to be, and it is not lost on me how blessed I am to be here. My first 30 days have been absolutely wonderful and I am looking forward to how the rest of my future unfolds here.
Good Samaritan Health Center
As a general dentist, it is my understanding that my primary job is to prevent oral disease.
The idea that I can make a difference in this community by helping my patients prevent getting cavities and losing their teeth is very rewarding and is one of the main attractions of dentistry for me. Unfortunately, after nearly 15 years of practice, I have found that this has become a secondary priority. And this seems to be true in all communities, not just the underserved populations I see in my chair. My job has become one of "the chasers," an investigator if you will. I am always searching for the cause. Dentistry is truly the "Who did It?" of health professions. Many people come to the dentist only when there is a problem; something is broken, something hurts, or they don't like something about their teeth. The answer is rarely satisfying; the search even less.
Many dentists take the drill/fill approach or, in recent times, the "hide and don't seek" approach. Cosmetic dentistry is all the rage now. Everyone wants "perfect teeth." So, people ask for crowns or veneers. While this is undoubtedly financially rewarding for dentists, I would ask, is it fulfilling our purpose?
As a health care professional, someone who is more than just a dentist, I value treating my patients as a whole. Educating my patients on how oral health is not just about brushing your teeth but also about their overall health.
The link between periodontal disease (gum disease) and heart disease is real. Studies have shown that people with gum disease have two to three times the risk of a heart attack, stroke, or other serious cardiovascular events due to systemic inflammation and the body's immune response. There is also a connection for expectant mothers, as gum disease is linked to preterm labor and low birth weights. The list goes on. See other connections below:
This path to health looks something like this:
- Routine Checkups; Oral exams (every 6 months)
- Dental Teeth Cleanings (every 3, 4, or 6 months)
- Routine Dental X-rays
Reiteration of technique and education happens at all of these visits. These things include:
- Brushing (at least) 2x daily; after every meal is encouraged
- Flossing Daily
- Drinking lots of water
- Limiting Sugar intake (especially snacking)
- Avoid Acidic Foods and Beverages (limiting soda)
- Using caution with hard foods (Not eating ice, hard candies)
- Adding Mouthwash to decrease bacterial loads and help prevent cavities.
- Using other materials, such as additional Fluoride or Mouth Guards, as directed.
This path obviously takes time. It also requires significant resources. I hope that as dentists and healthcare professionals, we can be both ambassadors of dental education and prevention and artists of the mouth and not compromise one for the other. I am really excited to be serving as the new Dental Services Director at Good Sam. I appreciate the Full Circle of Health model that has existed here since the beginning of the Center, a model that has taught that oral health is health. And I am grateful for the generous supporters of our work, who allow us to prioritize good oral health for our deserving patients.
Dr. Kahina King, DMD MS
Dental Services Director
Good Samaritan Health Center
Association between periodontal pathogens and systemic disease, Fiona Q. Bui, Cassio Luis Coutinho Almeida-da-Silva etc. www.sciencedirect.com Biomedical Journal Volume 42, Issue 1
I believe that certain people and opportunities come into our lives for a reason. Adam Young describes this perfectly in his podcast The Place We Find Ourselves. Picture your life like an epic story with many different settings, chapters, and characters, each one more interesting than the next. What are the chapters that define the person that you are today? Who are the characters in your life that made an impact on you? What will the following chapters consist of to shape you into the person you want to be?
My name is Ashlynn Landry, and I am Good Sam's newest Marketing and Communications Coordinator. I am over the moon and so honored to be a helping hand in this incredible organization, but with that excitement comes anxiety, and pressure I put on myself to not let people down. My first 30 days at Good Sam was a whirlwind of emotions and I’ll tell you why.
We are our own worst critics.
As little kids, we're often asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Fast forward to high school, and the question becomes, "What are your plans after graduation?" If we attend college, it then turns into "What are you majoring in?" followed by "What are you planning on doing with your major?" These questions come up flippantly, sometimes to fill an awkward silence with small talk around the dinner table and sometimes with serious concern behind them. I always admired those who had a plan for their lives, but these questions were a point of internal stress and anxiety because the only thing I was ever sure of was that I wanted to be a part of something greater than myself. Unaware of how I would make this happen, I was introduced to Good Sam through a close family friend who encouraged me to apply for a job within the organization.
I poured my heart and soul into the interview process, and when I got offered the Marketing and Communications Coordinator role for a Christian-based nonprofit, it felt like a dream I didn't want to wake up from. I felt like I had created a perfect bubble around myself to hide all my flaws and insecurities to be the ideal candidate, but I didn't think that I would live up to the expectations. This is how my irrational, anxious brain talks to itself after a victory—immediately downplaying the determination and hard work it took to achieve that goal. Rationally, I see the value that I bring to the table and would never talk about a friend the way I talk about myself. My brain likes to play these fun little games that make me overthink and doubt every ounce of myself. I know that I was chosen to be a part of furthering the mission of Good Sam for a reason. I know that I am more than deserving and capable of flourishing (in time) within this position and during this next chapter of my epic story. I am working on believing it.
"We're never going to be perfect alone, but we can be perfect together."
At Good Sam, I am surrounded by a team of incredible God-fearing people who not only help me navigate the learning curve that comes with starting a new job right out of college, but encourage me, believe in me 110%, and guide me in my faith.
In my first 30 days at Good Sam, I believe this to be true not only for myself but for every person that walks through the doors. Good Sam is a safe haven, a place of comfort, a place of restoration and healing, a place for personal and professional growth and encouragement, a place where your cup is always full, and most importantly, a place held preciously by the hands of our Lord. It feels like home, and the people who make it up feel like family. That is what Good Sam has been for me the past 30 days.
Marketing and Communications Coordinator
Good Samaritan Health Center
Next year marks Good Samaritan Health Center's 25th anniversary, and we could not be more excited to celebrate and reflect on how much we’ve grown while staying focused on what lies ahead. Not only are we dedicated to spreading Christ’s love through quality healthcare to those in need, but we also feel compelled to share what has made Good Sam unique for more than two decades.
The goal for Life at Good Sam is to bring you all along on our journey as we share what moves us by compassion. Whether through staff testimonials, updates from our departments, patient success stories, and lessons learned from hardships—we want YOU to be a part of the Christ-centered work happening at Good Sam through these firsthand accounts.
Our Covid-19 blog will remain active with ongoing updates as we continue to navigate alongside COVID-19. You can find updates and vaccination and booster information under its new home, “Covid-19 Resources,” in the header of our website.
What to Expect
This past year was filled with many new faces within Good Sam, across all departments. We will be introducing these talented and driven new friends over the next couple of months, starting with our Development and Marketing team. Heather Kersey is Good Sam’s newest Chief Development Officer who brings a wealth of nonprofit experience and a love for Good Sam that is infectious. Working alongside her is Development Coordinator Bianca Long and Marketing and Communications Coordinator Ashlynn Landry. As we begin to implement new development and marketing strategies over the next year, we hope to continue inspiring the Atlanta community (and beyond) to join us in providing quality healthcare to those in need.
If you're excited to join us on this journey then be sure to subscribe to our Life at Good Sam newsletter, so you never miss a beat on all things, Good Sam! If you haven't already, be sure to follow us on all our social media platforms for regular updates, as we will be posting a new blog twice a month!
For now, we leave you with this:
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” – Galatians 5:1