Tulsan To Serve On Washington, D.C. Health Panel

Wednesday, September 9th 2009, 4:10 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- An Oklahoma doctor and college dean will bring his experience in the trenches of health care to the policy debate on Capitol Hill.  Dr. Gerry Clancy leads a community oriented medicine program in Tulsa that's gaining national attention.  And, progress in Oklahoma clinics could influence the national debate.

Sometimes Kathleen Southerland wonders how she ended up where she is.  Unemployed, uninsured and seeking free health care at a Tulsa clinic.

A year ago Southerland had a great job as an accountant and health insurance.  Then she was laid off.  The months ticked by and she couldn't find work.

"The company that I'd been working for was bought by another company.  The COBRA amount doubled and there was no way I could pay it," said Kathleen Southerland.

"At least one in five do not have health care coverage in Oklahoma. And, we see those people in our clinics every day. And, those are hard working family people," said Dr. Gerry Clancy.

Dr. Clancy is the dean of Oklahoma University's College of Community Medicine.

"And, unfortunately every day we see the ramifications of what will happen if you don't have health care coverage. Just late diagnosis cancers, late diagnosis heart disease, late diagnosis of people leading right up to a stroke," said Dr. Gerry Clancy.

In clinics and classrooms, they're to solve Oklahoma's health care crisis by taking a team approach to patient care.

"I think what we're doing in Tulsa is unique and that was recognized," said Dr. Gerry Clancy.

Dr. Clancy will join a panel of experts including U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in Washington, DC, to talk not just health care reform, but access.

"And, if you increase coverage, then what are you going to do after that? Because we already don't have enough doctors to take care of what's going on right now," said Dr. Gerry Clancy.

OU's College of Community Medicine trains their students in teams of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and social workers.

The idea is to take a community approach to intervene in patient care early before it becomes a serious and expensive full-blown disease or condition.

That's just one of the strategies Doctor Clancy will be discussing in Washington on Thursday.