Baylor Rural Health Clinic Welcomed By Itasca Community
by Judy Long
As the Baylor Rural Health Clinic in Itasca celebrated its first six months of operation in January, Baylor nursing school professor Lisa Taylor celebrated the realization of a vision. Since becoming a family nurse practitioner, Taylor provided health services in rural settings, even in the same clinic now operated by Baylor University's Louise Herrington School of Nursing.
"Rural health is my cup of tea," said Taylor, who acquired a love for rural life while spending childhood summers on her grandfather's Appalachian farm.
To express the rural community's appreciation for the health service, the Itasca Chamber of Commerce hosted a reception and ribbon-cutting ceremony Jan. 22. Chamber of Commerce director Bob Wilson said the new clinic is necessary because many residents are elderly and no longer drive.
"Since we're located 45 miles north of Waco and 45 miles south of Fort Worth, we appreciate having a place to go in town for health care," he said.
Taylor's first job as a family nurse practitioner was at the Itasca clinic, where she worked until the hospital running it closed its doors in 1997. At the time, she was completing doctoral work and teaching at the School of Nursing.
Knowing the community's need for a health clinic, Taylor bought the building and reopened the facility herself to continue offering health care in Itasca.
During the months she ran the clinic on her own, she never received a salary or paycheck. She discovered during those months that Medicare is slow to approve "new" clinics. When she could no longer financially sustain operations, she closed the doors again, but she knew the value of the little clinic, both in filling a rural community's need and as a learning environment for Baylor nursing students and other future health care professionals.
Not long after, she applied for the Health and Human Services grant for underserved rural communities, and the Baylor Rural Health Services Center began operations last July with $1.2 million in federal funding that covers operating costs for the first five years.
Taylor said the 1600 residents represent a high poverty rate with the nearest medical facility 30 miles away. The clinic also expands its reach to a three-county area of nearly 10,000 residents.
"The poverty level is off the charts, both for state and national standards," she said, "and many residents are either underinsured or uninsured."
Taylor said many people in Itasca do not have the means to get to a doctor on a regular basis, which induces them to wait until their condition has deteriorated and treatment is more difficult. A community clinic will serve as an effective first step toward care for them.
The clinic also will be an ongoing source for numerous research projects for graduate and undergraduate students and faculty of the nursing school, Baylor social work and health education students and University of Texas Southwestern medical students, Taylor said.
Currently, two groups of nursing school students commute to Itasca to conduct clinical work: community health undergraduates and family nurse practitioner graduate students.
Graduate students and faculty currently plan to conduct research at the facility on topics including hypertension, diabetes, obesity in adults and children, asthma, behavioral health and family violence. Among services to be offered are cancer screening, preventive care and case management services.
For more information, contact Taylor at (214) 820-3361 or email Lisa_Taylor@baylor.edu.