By Kathryn Narumiya
This article was originally published in the July/August issue of the Tarrant County Physician. You can read find the full magazine here.
After nearly a decade under the leadership of Dr. Jim Cox (and during a pandemic, no less), Dr. Stuart Pickell joined Project Access Tarrant County as the new medical director. He reviewed his first patient chart in December 2020 and made the transition seamless.
Dr. Pickell has long been involved in Tarrant County’s charitable network. He volunteered at Beautiful Feet (Christian Community Health Clinic) for over fifteen years and became involved with an informal gathering of clinic leadership, led by then-TCMS CEO Robin Sloane. In these meetings, attendees shared challenges and possible solutions regarding their patients’ barriers to care. Dr. Pickell says, “Access to specialists and surgeons was always at the top of the list.” As a member of the TCMS Board of Advisors and the current TCMS vice president, Dr. Pickell has stayed apprised and supportive of PATC’s activities over the past decade.
We are blessed with many gifted and generous physicians willing to donate their time and expertise to care for patients in need. Our next hurdle is to build and expand collaborative relationships with the entities we need to allow those physicians to do just that. David Capper, MD, long-time PATC board member, says, “Stuart Pickell carries forth from the superb foundation of medical direction and immense respectability established by Dr Cox. He also enriches the position with practical insights that benefit both patients and clinicians.”
While he was not surprised, Dr. Pickell was pleased to learn the number of physicians who volunteer with PATC. Because of his history of volunteering in a primary care clinic setting, he was well aware of the barriers clinics face with accessing specialty care. He also knew that many specialists want to give back but do not feel they have a mechanism to utilize their area of expertise. This connection, Dr. Pickell believes, is where PATC shines. “By creating networks of charity clinics, specialists, and surgeons, supporting personnel and outpatient facilities specialists and surgeons can treat as many patients as they want in their own clinics on their own time. It’s a win-win.”
Dr. Pickell recognizes the challenge that PATC faces in trying to provide care to as many patients as possible. “Leveraging the strength of many team members with unique skill sets and gifts, we can realize better outcomes for patients,” Dr. Pickell says. “Medical systems, which are the community’s greatest tangible resource for healthcare, value collaboration as well, but most of their energy is spent within their systems. They may share common goals and understand the community value of bridging silos, but they continue to function independently, competing rather than cooperating with the other systems.” Dr. Pickell sees this as a critical area of growth to sustain PATC.
When asked what his vision for PATC’s future is, Dr. Pickell says, “There are several priorities that I believe will help PATC continue to be strong and expand. The first is financial sustainability. Even though we offer charity care, there are still costs. We seek to minimize these, but they are an ever-present reality. The second is to expand networks – build a stronger team of partners willing to donate time, equipment, and facilities. Finally, we need to expand the specialty services we can offer. We already do well at this, but there is always room for improvement, and we still have needs in some specialties.”
“Fundamentally, my long-term vision is that Project Access Tarrant County would become a model for providing healthcare services to the underserved. We need to expand on the excellent foundation that has been laid by Dr. Cox and his team and expand our network so that patients who need specialty services will be able to access them.”
Dr. Pickell is a welcome addition to PATC leadership. “I am a strong advocate for teamwork in healthcare, for collaboration, and for cooperation,” he says. “Project Access is about improving the healthcare of our most vulnerable residents through collaboration. It seeks to create bridges between the silos in health care – the hospital systems, the physicians, the all-important ancillary staff – to improve the health of those who otherwise would be unable to afford it. Project Access seeks the common ground of shared values, those things that unite us in our human condition. This may be aspirational, but it is an aspiration worth striving for.”