Dr. Kathryn “Katy” White ’87 is the Chief Medical Officer of the Los Angeles Christian Health Centers (LACHC), which, since 1995, has been “a source of hope and healing to thousands of homeless and low-income residents of Los Angeles County seeking care and compassion.” LACHC has two full time clinics, 11 satellite sites and 85 staff members.
Dr. White joined LACHC in August 2009 as a family practice doctor at the east Los Angeles/Pico Aliso site. Prior to that, she completed her residency in Family Medicine at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center and has been working with inner city underserved populations since 2000, at South Central Family Health Center (2000 to 2007) and at St. John’s Well Child and Family Center in Compton (2007 to 2009). In her new role as an administrator at LACHC, Dr. White moved from being a part-time physician to a full-time (nearly 50 hours a week) problem solver: supervising, hiring and training staff, overseeing clinical care of patients, and working with LACHC’s executive team. She currently works in the program’s Skid Row site, but also see patients eight hours a week at LACHC’s Boyle Heights clinic. “I value the patient time I get,” she said.
An important aspect of her job is networking with medical directors from the 50 or so other clinics in Los Angeles through the Community Clinic Association of Los Angeles.
“We learn together,” said Dr. White of the group. “We ask ourselves, ‘how can we do a better job?’ – we truly want to give the best care to the vulnerable people we serve.”
Some of the top health issues Dr. White’s group encounters are mental illness, obesity, diabetes, substance abuse and high blood pressure. At the Skid Row site, Dr. White says that 60-70% of the patients are homeless.
“When people are poor, jobless, homeless … they are also depressed,” said Dr. White of another issue facing the clinics.
The Affordable Care Act has been a bureaucratic challenge, but overall, a good thing, according to Dr. White who says that just a year ago, only 33% of LACHC patients had insurance and now, 65% of the agency’s patients are insured. In fact, the Affordable Care Act has added another layer of managerial reflection, “with better payment mechanisms, we (LACHC) have to think more competitively, because people have other choices and we want to be the clinic of choice,” she added.
In her day-to-day work, Dr. White sees a lot of challenges, but she’s quick to add, she also experiences a lot of resilience among the people she serves, citing the example of one 70-year old patient who last year presented with arthritis, high blood pressure and obesity who recently returned to the clinic having lost 20 pounds.
“It makes my day when I see a patient who makes a change,” she said.