Our partner highlight this month is CHRISTUS Foundation for Healthcare, a charitable Catholic health organization based in Texas that provides primary care services to patients in need. By providing affordable care as well as other programming such as screenings, medication assistance, and social work services, CHRISTUS Foundation and all its clinics are able to take down the barriers to accessing healthcare that many of their patients face. We interviewed two members of CHRISTUS Foundation’s St. Mary’s Clinic based in Houston about their mission, their services, and the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on their organization.
We spoke to Sister Rosanne Popp, MD, the Medical Director at St. Mary’s Clinic, and Jocelyn Cox, the Clinic Practice Manager.
Could you tell us about your mission and how St. Mary’s Clinic was founded?
Sr. Rosanne: Our mission is to extend the healing ministry of Jesus Christ. We all consider our jobs not as work, but as ministry. Everyone from the highest person on the ladder down to the person who sits at the front door and take’s people’s temperatures feels that way. Every member of our clinic knows that they are part of the same healing ministry. This influences how we act with our patients, and how we interact with each other. We are also very much aware of, and dedicated towards, increasing diversity and inclusion to make sure that all of our brothers and sisters are treated equally. Most importantly, our mission is to make sure that everyone can get the healthcare they need.
Jocelyn: Because our core values are dignity, integrity, excellence, compassion, and stewardship, we enjoy having consistent relationships with all of our patients. We were founded to help our patients, our community, and each other.
CHRISTUS was originally started when a group of Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word arrived in Galveston, Texas, from France. As they grew in Galveston, they spread out to reach more people in a greater portion of Texas from Beaumont to Port Arthur, Corpus Christi, Houston, and even Dallas now as well.
Tell me about the name CHRISTUS. How does the meaning of the name of your organization impact the way you work?
Sr. Rosanne: To me, it means “Christ and Us.” Some other versions say it is “Christ” in Latin. Either way, I think it speaks for itself- it tells the story of our ministry and of our healing mission through Christ.
Jocelyn: When people ask me how to spell CHRISTUS, I say “It’s Christ with an ‘Us’ at the end,” so it certainly makes sense to reflect upon the meaning of “Christ and us,” and how it points to our mission, which is to expand the healing ministry of Jesus Christ. Together as an organization, we have a strong desire to help all patients in this area, and even patients from different states. You might wonder why our patients come from so far, but I think it’s because they love the Doctor [Sr. Rosanne] so much. They appreciate getting care, but they really love seeing her, as she furthers our mission with every patient she sees.
What services do you provide at St. Mary’s Clinic, which is one of the many clinics under CHRISTUS Foundation for Healthcare?
Jocelyn: We are a family medicine clinic, so the services we provide are all centered on primary and preventive care. Our top diagnoses are diabetes, hypertension, and obesity, but we also provide many “Well Woman” exams, male physicals, and sports physicals for children in school. Along with that, we have a vaccines for children program, we provide nutritionist services, we provide counseling and mental health care, as well as social work services just within this clinic itself.
Sr. Rosanne: We try to make St. Mary’s Clinic a community-based center for prevention and holistic health. And when we say health, we don’t just mean physical, healing health. Rather, we do a lot of preventative health because for many people preventative care is often a luxury. This type of preventative care would include pap smears, mammograms, colon cancer screenings, Hepatitis C screenings, diagnostic tests of that nature. A lot of the care we provide is only possible through partnerships. For example, a food bank in Houston started offering a new program for diabetics, where they could find more fresh produce, and we are now able to bring them to our clinic twice a month. That way, it was being utilized by more patients because the people who need it know where we are, they know how to get to us, and they trust us.
Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, we have also partnered with a donor who is helping us give funds to our patients for rent and utilities because if our patients cannot put food on the table or keep a roof over their heads, they are not going to prioritize their health. A lot of our care has been focused on helping patients break down the barriers to accessing care. There’s a lot of teaching and mentoring that goes on in our clinic to help people take responsibility for their health.
Why is it important to you to respect the dignity and worth of all of your patients while providing them care?
Sr. Rosanne: That’s just who we are. That’s like asking if water is water. Believing in the dignity of our patients is our mission. All of our doctors here cite that care as a reason they love coming to work-- because it’s not just about numbers. We actually care for each patient as a human.
And physical healing is just part of the spectrum of care we provide. In order to have physical healing, you have to look at the bigger picture. That bigger picture, the whole health of the patient, requires that we find partners that can support our mission. All of our partners are also non-profit folks; they are guided by the same missions and values we hold.
Jocelyn: All of our partners are very engaged in helping patients and communities no matter where they come from or who they are. As missionaries, that’s what we all strive to do everyday. There should never be a stone left unturned when it comes to providing our patients with the best care possible.
Why is it important to serve any patient who comes to your clinic?
Jocelyn: It is important to care for them because they are looking for help, and we can provide that for them. This is especially true because the healthcare setting today isn’t always friendly to people needing help. There can often be too many roadblocks and challenges just to get to a family practice physician for preventative care.
Sr. Rosanne: From the Gospel values, we are extending the healing ministry of Jesus Christ. If I can work with a patient at the primary care level, then I am serving not only the patient, but the community as a whole. This is because the work we do prevents the loss of resources, the loss of time, the loss of quality of life. All of these things might otherwise be impacted if a patient waited to get care and saw us in the later, more consuming stages of a disease. It is important to serve all patients because that means we are impacting the health of the whole community.
Why do you partner with Rx Outreach? How has Rx Outreach helped you to further your mission of extending the healing ministry of Jesus Christ through the promotion of health and welfare to people in need?
Jocelyn: We would not be able to see so many successful outcomes without the help your program gives us. We are definitely the working-man’s medical group. Our patients can’t always afford to pay for their medications because they might be worried about paying for food, or taking care of their kids, or working two (or three, or even more) jobs just to afford rent.
Sr. Rosanne: You have helped us provide access to medications that are affordable for our patients. The relationship we have with Rx Outreach has allowed our patients to keep their dignity by paying for part of their medications while we pay for the other portion. Working with Rx Outreach has given us the ability to supplement a patient’s income either partially or completely, depending on their needs in that moment.
Your mission of providing affordable medications to those in need is very personal to me. If a patient cannot get their medications, I feel bad. It’s very personal when you see these patients face-to-face.
How has the COVID-19 Pandemic affected the way CHRISTUS Foundation operates?
Sr. Rosanne: Since the beginning of the pandemic, our goal has been to continue providing uninterrupted care to our patients while ensuring that both our staff and our patients feel safe. We’ve accomplished that. We offered some telemedicine visits, but we also offered phone calls to some of our patients who could not navigate the online world as confidently. Many of our patients still came to us in person.
I think more significantly, the pandemic changed us socially. We have had so many patients who have lost family members. I saw one woman recently who lost five family members in one week. We’ve even had several patients pass. It has really impacted our feelings of depression and isolation that so many have experienced this past year.
Jocelyn: As March 2020 rolled around and COVID took over, we remained open even as other businesses closed because our staff wanted to continue helping others. To be able to calm the fears of the group around us everyday is an art itself, but we managed to change small parts of our operations to keep everyone safe. We were all very thankful to still work, and still have a place to come.
Sr. Rosanne: What Jocelyn said points to the bigger picture of extending the healing ministry-- you must care for your own as well.
How can people support CHRISTUS Health, St. Mary’s Clinic, and your mission?
Jocelyn: We have a website, https://christusfoundation.org/, where you can see all of the programs we are involved with, including St. Mary’s Clinic. You can also learn more about how to donate to those programs at https://christusfoundation.org/donate/. Of course, we also always want to connect with you on our social media platforms. Our facebook can be found at https://www.facebook.com/christusfoundation. Our twitter handle is @CHRISTUSFdn. Our instagram handle is @christusfdnforhealthcare. And, you can find our youtube account at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCn_hA0LbIuAsTWcvKqR5jyg.
Sr. Rosanne: We are all working towards the same mission-- providing care to those in need. In a sense, if you see a way of making someone’s health better, do it. Whether that means you volunteer at the foodbank, or you donate to another medical foundation, there are many ways that we can all participate. We are all in this mission together, and we all have our own part to do. Nobody survives alone. Pay it forward somewhere, whatever way is your favorite, but just make someone’s health and their life better.