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Driving along the sunny South Florida coast, it is easy to forget that 20 years ago Hurricane Andrew was one of the worst natural disasters to hit the United States. The devastation from the storm left thousands of families homeless and in need of emergency health care.
In response to the hurricane, Children’s Health Fund sent a mobile medical clinic from New York City down to South Florida to assist in the recovery effort and then stayed to bring health care to neighborhoods that historically had very little access to doctors. Twenty years and 75,000 patients later, Dr. Lisa Gwynn and her team, including two advanced nurse practitioners, psychologist, counselor/social worker and driver, make their rounds to elementary schools, faith-based facilities and community centers in the immigrant neighborhoods of Little Havana, Hialeah and Little Haiti, as well as rural communities in Miami-Dade County, to provide dependable health care for children.
BREAKING THE BARRIERS
“More than 75 percent of our patient population has lived in the U.S. for less than five years, which sets them up for numerous barriers to obtaining proper health care,” said Dr. Gwynn. “Language, financial, and cultural barriers often get in the way of a patient receiving the treatment.”
Sometimes a routine visit reveals much more. A Nicaraguan immigrant brought her 6-year-old daughter to see Dr. Gwynn, and tests determined that she suffered from a rare genetic syndrome. Through the project’s affiliation with University of Miami School of Medicine the child was referred to the needed specialists. Then the project coordinated efforts so the little girl, who had no health insurance, was scheduled to receive surgery, free of charge, to correct her scoliosis. Now, at 13 years old, she is thriving and actively participating in school activities.
STAYING THE COURSE
Dr. Gwynn looks to the future focused on promoting the health and well-being of every child. The project works closely with each community to ensure families know about all the services available to them and to provide opportunities for health education. By making sure kids are healthy today, Dr. Gwynn and her team know that there are many possibilities for tomorrow.