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A Mobile Solution to Better Health

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A Mobile Solution to Better Health

A Mobile Solution to Better Health

Pat Letke examines a young patient inside the Care-A-Van. 

Date: 01/25/2017

For 17 years, Johns Hopkins physician assistant Pat Letke has been caring for some of the poorest of the working poor—uninsured families, mostly Latino immigrants—out of a mobile clinic in southeast Baltimore.

In the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center Community Care-A-Van, Letke travels four days a week with just a driver/patient registrar and an interpreter, serving some 2,000 clients a year in the neighborhoods around Johns Hopkins Bayview—community members who couldn’t otherwise afford medical care.

“Our target population is children and pregnant women,” says Letke, who has extensive experience in pediatrics and emergency medicine, and has worked with families in Papua New Guinea and with the homeless in Washington, D.C. “We provide kids with school physicals, see them when they’re sick, administer vaccines, and screen for lead poisoning and other issues. We connect uninsured women with prenatal care. We’ve been out in the community so long that we have long-standing relationships with a lot of families.”

The biggest issue for her clients is lack of resources—prescription drugs and even food are often beyond their means. But lack of education is also a problem. “About 70 percent of my patients have a sixth-grade education or less,” she says.

The great thing about a mobile clinic is that “we can change locations as the neighborhoods’ needs change,” says Letke, who in 2007 received Baltimore City’s first annual Dr. Sebastian Russo Award, named for a doctor legendary for treating the city’s disadvantaged.

Last fall, the aging Care-A-Van was replaced with a new model.

 “Our current unit has served us very well, and we’ve taken excellent care of it, but it’s getting hard to find replacement parts, which can impact delivering care,” says Letke. “The new 39-foot van has two examination rooms, a patient registration area, a patient wait space, a bathroom and a laboratory/work area. It ensures uninterrupted care for those who greatly need it.”