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Published in CenterView on April 01, 2013
Dr. Kate Fouquier, left, and Vicki Burslem
Dr. Kate Fouquier, left, and Vicki Burslem

New UNACARE after-hours clinic caters to midtown Jackson teens

By Matt Westerfield

Jackson-area teenagers who might typically avoid visiting the doctor will have a new teen-friendly option to address their health-care needs when the University of Mississippi Medical Center School of Nursing’s teen clinic opens later this month.

On Monday, April 15, the school will launch a health clinic specifically geared toward youth ages 13-21 at the UNACARE Health Center in midtown Jackson. To make its services more convenient for high school students, the clinic will be open after hours from 4-7 p.m. three days a week.

“We will see teens for sports physicals, school physicals, any medical health issues that they have, but we will also provide comprehensive reproductive health services,” said Dr. Kate Fouquier, assistant professor of nursing and certified nurse midwife.

The clinic is a collaboration between several organizations and individuals, including the Women’s Fund of Mississippi, which helped secure a grant of nearly $50,000 from private donors to offer confidential health-care services in the city specifically for teenagers.

“The Women’s Fund is funding the teen-clinic hours of UNACARE, and we are also helping UMMC better understand and implement youth-friendly best practices by connecting UMMC health-care professionals to our colleagues at Advocates for Youth and the Mississippi Department of Health,” said Jamie Bardwell, director of programs at the Women’s Fund of Mississippi.

Fouquier said the initial impetus behind the clinic came when a local philanthropist who works with Jackson Public Schools discovered how high the pregnancy rate was within a particular school.

“She came to the School of Nursing and asked, could we do something to help,” Fouquier said. “And my background is maternal/child nursing. I’m a certified nurse midwife, so with Dean Kim Hoover’s support we began looking at a school-based clinic.”

Fouquier and Bardwell initially looked at opening a clinic within a JPS high school but realized they could have a greater impact in the midtown community if the clinic were more centrally located. Instead, they approached Pam Helms, assistant professor of nursing and director of clinical services, about housing the teen clinic within UNACARE as an after-hours clinic.

The Midtown Teen Wellness Clinic is a collaborative practice with the UMMC departments of Family Medicine, Pediatrics and OB/GYN. Fouquier and Vicki Burslem will serve as the clinic’s certified nurse midwives. They are currently seeking a family nurse practitioner as well.

“It’s not a free clinic, but no teen will be turned away. We take all insurance,” Fouquier said. “We also have a sliding scale for those teens who can’t pay or who have an inability to pay along with a small funding source to help cover some of the incidentals that may arise.”

Central to the effort was establishing a youth advisory board made up of students from several neighboring JPS high schools to gain a teenager’s perspective on what the clinic should offer.

“The youth advisory board didn’t want this to be viewed as a sex clinic,” Bardwell said. “They didn’t want it to be seen as the place to go get an STD test.”

Another suggestion from the youth advisory board, Burslem said, was to make the clinic’s hours convenient for teens in school.

“It’s after hours, so it meets the population’s need,” she said. “Teens historically don’t like going to see a health-care provider, so our goal was to make it an inviting environment where they could be more comfortable.”

Burslem and Fouquier, who worked together in Atlanta before joining the Medical Center, have been attending community meetings and engaging with families to get the word out. They also have communicated with schools and coaches.

“In addition to providing comprehensive health care, we will provide prenatal care and what is called interconception care, so if we have patients who have already had one pregnancy, we will offer them education to prevent a second pregnancy because we know statistically that teenagers who get pregnant at a very early age are at risk for having another baby pretty quickly,” Fouquier said.

“We’re going to be looking at some innovative group work. We’d like to start what is called ‘centering pregnancy,’” she said. Centering pregnancy is a concept in which young pregnant women and their partners gather in a group of about 10-12 and learn how to manage their own prenatal records, blood pressures and overall wellness.

“We’re anxious to see how this works and how the community responds.”

With Mississippi leading the nation in the rate of teen pregnancy and some sexually transmitted diseases, Fouquier and Burslem are passionate about the health of young women.

“We know that this age group is more at risk for pregnancy complications than other age groups, particularly when you look at preterm birth and low-birth weight infants,” she said. “Our first priority is getting them into prenatal care early so that we can take care of their health and also the health of their babies.”

A second priority is seizing the opportunity to be a model for young patients and showing them that they have options.

“Sometimes, it’s just helping them see that they do have choices and that they can find their voice to make those choices,” Fouquier said. “That’s what we’re trying to do.”