A Helping Hand


A few years ago at an annual department retreat, faculty within the division of primary care and population health voted on the activities or initiatives they felt would improve the division. A top priority emerged: community engagement.

“Our faculty were interested in better aligning with our community partners, with the goal of trying to meet their needs in clinical, educational, administrative, and research support; across the board there was interest in everything we asked about,” says Baldeep Singh, MD, professor of medicine and vice chief of academic affairs in the division, who was asked to coordinate the effort. “There was clearly a lot of untapped energy.”

In response, division leaders named Jonathan Shaw, MD, MS, as the new director of community partnership. He started reaching out to community organizations that might be in need of doctors’ time and expertise.

Around the same time, Loto Reed—program specialist for community engagement and wellness within the division—proposed the idea of a staff-led community service program. “Lots of the staff were interested in giving back to the community and finding ways to build culture within our staff team,” she says.

By the end of 2018, both faculty and staff suddenly had an overabundance of new opportunities for community engagement. The community partnership effort organized by Shaw offered faculty the chance to serve patients in need. Another program, SCOPE (Stanford Community Outreach Partnership Engagement), the outcome of Reed’s proposal to the division chief, Sang-ick Chang, MD, offered opportunities outside patient care.

A Coordinated Effort

When Shaw started reaching out to local organizations and clinics that provide “safety net” health care—services to low-income and vulnerable populations who lack insurance—they immediately expressed interest in having help from Stanford.

Shaw initially set up a collaboration with Mayview Community Health Center, a nonprofit primary care clinic devoted to providing health care to low-income families. Stanford Hospital generously offered funding to cover faculty support for this effort; the funds were used to support division of primary care and population health physicians in spending some of their clinical time at Mayview.

“These organizations don’t just need clinicians a few hours a week,” says Shaw. “They really need lots of support.” The partnership launched with direct clinical care, but has grown to include non-monetary support via capacity-building, education, and research, he says.

From left: SCOPE team members Meredith Fischer, Catherine Brown Johnson, and Darlene Veruttipong make blankets.

Kirsti Weng, MD, MPH, clinical associate professor of medicine, and Meenadchi Chelvakumar, MD, clinical assistant professor of medicine, are being supported in seeing patients at Mayview. Weng was named medical director there, and another three—Singh, along with Chang and Maria Tiscareno, MD, clinical assistant professor of medicine—have now joined the Mayview board of directors. In addition, the partnership has launched a new student clerkship, which lets Stanford medical students spend time at Mayview during their training.

“It’s really grown into a multi-faceted collaboration,” Shaw says.

In addition, affiliations with two other programs began in 2019. A Stanford physician-fellow in primary care, Kenji Taylor, MD, has begun working at Roots Community Health Center in Oakland.

Closer to Stanford, clinical assistant professors Laura Vaughan, MD, and Tamara Montacute, MD, are now providing rotating clinical time at Peninsula Healthcare Connection, a clinic within Palo Alto’s Opportunity Center. The clinic offers primary care for homeless individuals in Santa Clara County. Clinical associate professor Kathan Vollrath, MD, MPH, is acting as an external quality consultant there, offering her expertise to help improve patient safety and implement program changes.

“We’re still working on building up these relationships with our partners,” says Shaw. “It’s a slow process.”

The division hopes to collaborate with other divisions and departments that have an interest in community engagement. Until now, volunteer efforts throughout Stanford Medicine have been fragmented, Singh says. “Some departments have been doing lots of great work, but the effort remains uncoordinated.”

Singh and Shaw would like to provide subspecialty care to their community partners and help link information with other departments—such as pediatrics and psychiatry—that already have active community programs.

“Traditionally, community engagement was not part of Stanford Medicine’s mission,” says Shaw. “As a vision, we would like to make it part of our mission, and we’d love to see that spread.”

An Active Volunteer Net

In early 2018, SCOPE’s initial team of 10 staff members set their motto as “Putting Compassion into Action” and began by partnering with three community organizations that serve low-income and homeless individuals. The SCOPE team helped coordinate at least one event a month, including preparing and serving meals at shelters, sorting through used clothing, volunteering time at food pantries, and making winter care packages to be distributed to community partners.

“Through SCOPE we found a great outlet to serve and to interact with colleagues outside of work,” says Reed. “We started inviting staff from other divisions who we knew might be interested, and it kind of took on a life of its own.”

Through SCOPE we found a great outlet to serve and to interact with colleagues outside of work.

In 2018 alone, more than 100 people each logged over 200 volunteer hours at events organized by SCOPE. Some could devote only a few hours to volunteering, while others became regulars, spending time in the communities on SCOPE projects and forging new connections with colleagues outside of the usual workday. The central SCOPE team—including Reed—volunteer their time outside of work to coordinate the community partnerships by holding monthly lunch meetings. “The success of SCOPE has truly been a team effort by both the SCOPE team that has been so dedicated and the volunteers who continue to see the value of giving back to the community even in the smallest way,” says Reed.

Like Shaw, Reed also quickly realized that there’s a greater need to coordinate volunteer efforts throughout the Stanford campus.

“We’d like to develop a central volunteer hub so that anyone from Stanford can access volunteer events or inform us of new volunteer events to be posted,” explains Reed. She hopes that a website will make it easier for Stanford staff and faculty to help local communities in need.