Shade Tree Clinic adds monthly pediatric clinicFeb. 2, 2023, 10:13 AM
by Kathy Whitney
Shade Tree Clinic, which since 2005 has provided primary care to underserved and uninsured adults in Nashville, opened a pediatric clinic in January, the result of nearly a yearlong effort on the part of medical and nursing students and their faculty mentors.
The new monthly clinic serves adolescents ages 13-17 who are predominantly underserved and uninsured, either due to lack of eligibility for Tenncare (i.e., children who were not born in the U.S. and do not meet Tenncare requirements) or who are eligible but whose families need help navigating the Tenncare application process.
Shade Tree Clinic serves as a primary care home for those adolescents who do not have access and as a bridge to those patients who are deemed eligible by the team of social workers. The clinic offers holistic care to adolescents by providing vaccinations, medications, social work assessments, lab tests and connections to other community resources.
The new clinic is starting as a small pilot population of about 20 patients from the Shade Tree community (children of current patients or their relatives), and its founders hope to eventually expand to younger pediatric age groups and serve as a clinical partner for Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt and other community partners for children who do not have insurance, said fourth-year medical student Shauna McLaughlin, who along with MD/PhD candidate Simone Herzberg, serves as co-executive directors of Shade Tree Clinic.
“Launching a pediatric clinic has been a learning process for all of us as we have gone through many steps to ensure we can safely add this age group to Shade Tree with all the additional nuances that come with caring for the pediatric population,” McLaughlin said.
“We hope to serve the community well and further advance the Department of Pediatrics and Monroe Carell’s goal of providing equitable access to high-level care for marginalized populations here in Nashville.”
The idea for the pediatric clinic started when McLaughlin and Herzberg were receiving an overwhelming number of calls on the clinic phone from parents on behalf of their children, Herzberg said.
“After doing some research and conducting a needs assessment, we soon realized that there are a substantial number of kids in the Nashville area that, for financial or regulatory reasons, don’t have access to basic primary care. In fact, many of the kids on our panel haven’t seen a doctor in over a decade,” Herzberg said.
“Shade Tree Clinic is the reason I came to Vanderbilt. I feel very fortunate to have been able to work with such amazing students and faculty, and I am tremendously grateful for all of the Shade Tree patients who have trusted me with their care and from whom I have learned so much more than just medical practice.”
Faculty mentorship is key to supporting the student-run Shade Tree Clinic. Maya Neeley, MD, Cooper Lloyd, MD, Nick Desai, MD, and Adriana Bialostozky, MD, serve as pediatric medical directors, and Shannon Jordan, LCSW, serves as Shade Tree’s social worker. Cathy Fuchs, MD, Jessie Merritt, MD, and Sloane Sparks, DNP, PMHNP, are helping establish an adolescent psychiatry clinic for adolescents seen at Shade Tree. Robert Miller, MD, longtime Shade Tree medical director, Meg Rush, MD, President of Monroe Carell and Steven Webber, MBChB, MRCP, pediatrician-in-chief at Monroe Carell, have long supported the clinic and the students’ hopes to expand its services to children.
“On behalf of our teams in the departments and hospital, we are grateful for the commitment and diligent efforts of our Shade Tree colleagues in expanding care to this population,” said Rush.
“We look forward to slow but steady growth of this special program to serve children in our community.”
Shade Tree Clinic relies heavily on donations, and its annual Benefit Concert & Silent Auction, featuring Sheryl Crow, will be held Wednesday, Feb. 15, at 7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased here: https://give.vanderbilthealth.org/event/shade-tree-clinic-concert-for-a-cause-2023/e444151