UT Health Science Center and Community Partners to Open Innovative Health Hub in Soulsville

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Representatives from the partners involved in the new UTHSC Health Hub: Soulsville gathered Tuesday to announce the exciting community collaboration to bring primary care to Soulsville.

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center, the Soulsville Foundation and Soulsville community, and the Kemmons Wilson Family Foundation announced Tuesday they are partnering to bring convenient and affordable primary health care to the historic Soulsville neighborhood.

Representatives from the organizations, local media, and invited guests gathered in Studio A inside the Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Soulsville to announce the launch of the UTHSC Health Hub: Soulsville, which will open in the fall at 870 E. McLemore Ave.

“You’ve heard the phrase, ‘it takes a village,’ ” UT Health Science Center’s Chancellor Peter Buckley, MD, told the enthusiastic crowd. “It does take a village. This is an incredibly worthwhile project. It builds on what is already the foundation of this community and it gives us the opportunity to make a difference. We feel very privileged to be part of this.”

A neighborhood approach to health care, the UTHSC Health Hub: Soulsville will offer primary care for adults and children, health coaching, school nursing serving three community schools, youth intervention specialists for student behavioral health needs, and mental health counseling (in the program’s second year). The care will be targeted to the residents of Soulsville, and personnel for the hub will be from the Soulsville community or deeply rooted in the community.

“Soulsville is excited to be involved in this project,” said Soulsville Foundation’s Chief Executive Officer Pat Mitchell Worley. One of the main reasons for that, she explained, stems from the vision organizers from UT Health Science Center have for the health hub. “They spoke about health not as disease. They spoke about health like the World Health Organization talks about the state of health as complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and that’s what we all deserve.”

Chancellor Buckley recalled visiting the Stax Museum and Soulsville three years ago, when he interviewed for the position of chancellor. “I felt a great sense of history, as well as a great sense of innovation and entrepreneurialism, and I feel the exact same today for a different reason. It’s a reason that’s very close to our heart as an organization in this great city. Over the last two years we’ve engaged in outreach, but we’ve also engaged in introspection, and we’ve come up with a new vision. It’s only four words, Healthy Tennesseans. Thriving Communities, and in a collaborative way with all of you, we are going to strive toward our vision in this iconic community to provide holistic care.”

“This is an incredibly worthwhile project. It builds on what is already the foundation of this community and it gives us the opportunity to make a difference. We feel very privileged to be part of this.”

Chancellor Peter Buckley, MD

The chancellor introduced Tate Wilson, chief executive officer for the Kemmons Wilson Family Foundation, saying, “she’s a person with a vision, she’s a person with energy, she’s truly an influencer and a connector, and she has helped perhaps more than anybody to shape this project into what it will be.”

Wilson said the new health hub will serve a community with thousands of students from elementary to college age. “Those students are the future,” she said. “They’re full of possibility. They deserve access to everything they need to thrive. We know that the health hub is just one piece of this puzzle. But health is foundational to opportunity. Without good health, it’s almost impossible to achieve your dreams. We are so honored with the Kemmons Wilson Foundation to be a partner in this work. We can’t wait for the journey to come.”

Serving the people of the Soulsville community is “very dear to me,” said Michelle Miller, executive director of Memphis Rox, a rock-climbing gym and community center in Soulsville, and a lifelong resident of South Memphis.

“We all deserve the best services when it comes to health care,” she said. “I appreciate the way that the University of Tennessee (Health Science Center) acknowledges that they don’t have all the answers, but they bring a wonderful empathy and that they can come to us and say, ‘we’re here to help, but y’all know the work,’ and that is a beautiful way for us to work together to make a difference in this community.”

Miller recounted discussions she had last summer with a UT Health Science Center medical student she met at the climbing gym that sparked the idea for the health hub. That student, Abe Almatari, now in his fourth year, attended Tuesday’s announcement with fellow fourth-year medical student, Lauren Wideman. The two were climbers at Memphis Rox when they founded the college’s Soulsville Health Outreach Program several years ago to bring health fairs and information to the Soulsville community.

“We attended a social determinants of health program and saw that UT Health Science Center had programs in other communities, but not here,” Almatari said. The soon-to-graduate medical students said they were “excited and happy” to see the seed they planted grow into a new health hub. “I hope we can do this where we go for residency,” Almatari said.

Medical students Abe Almatari, center, and Lauren Wideman, right, planted the seed for the new health hub when they founded a health outreach program in Soulsville in 2022. They are pictured with Austin Dalgo, MD, associate professor of Pediatrics for UT Health Science Center and the medical director for the Soulsville hub.

The new health hub will open in the summer in a temporary space in Soulsville, while renovations are made to the permanent location at 870 E. McLemore Ave.

It follows the successful approach employed at the UTHSC Health Hub in Uptown, which opened in 2021 at 534 N. Second St., and the ShelbyCares on 3rd facility, which opened in partnership with Shelby County in 2023 at 3358 S. Third St., in the Westwood neighborhood. Health coaches at these facilities have completed more than 4,000 total visits, more than 2,000 individual coaching visits, and served more than 1,000 unique patients. All patients are screened for obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and social needs. Services include individual and group health coaching for diabetes prevention and self-management, and tobacco cessation. Early results demonstrate a significant average decrease in BMI (body mass index), weight, and blood pressure for health coaching participants.

“We’ve been fortunate that this is the third health hub and that we’ve been able to establish partnerships,” Chancellor Buckley said. “Some of our early partners include Mason Hawkins, a leader in this community, and Joe Scarlett, another innovator and leader in Tennessee and the Nashville community, and also Henry Turley, a leader in this community, who supported us, along with the Belz Foundation, in our first health hub in the Pinch District.” National corporate sponsorship from the UnitedHealth Group, Inc, has helped refine metrics and support health coaching, he said.

“The UTHSC Health Hub: Soulsville will address health and social needs of the community through individualized and empowering care that builds on existing community strengths and assets,” Jim Bailey, MD, executive director of the Tennessee Population Health Consortium and Robert S. Pearce Endowed Chair in Internal Medicine at UT Health Science Center, said prior to the announcement. Dr. Bailey has led the health hub initiative at the university. “UT Health Science Center seeks to work in partnership with the residents of Soulsville to meet essential health needs and foster wellness and abundant life in the community.”

Austin Dalgo, MD, associate professor of Pediatrics for UT Health Science Center and the medical director for the Soulsville hub, echoed that sentiment. “This clinic seeks to care for each and every person who walks through the doors. UT Health Science Center cares deeply about the health of the Soulsville community.”

Note: Pictured in the group photo at the top of this story are, from left, Tate Wilson, chief executive officer for the Kemmons Wilson Family Foundation; Michelle Miller, executive director of Memphis Rox; Reverend Marlon Foster, founder and chief executive officer of Knowledge Quest; Soulsville Foundation Chief Executive Officer Pat Mitchell Worley; UT Health Science Center Chancellor Peter Buckley, MD; student Dee Gregory, who will be the Health Hub: Soulsville nurse upon graduation; Altha Stewart, MD, Senior Associate Dean for Community Health Engagement; Jim Bailey, MD, executive director of the Tennessee Population Health Consortium at UT Health Science Center and leader of the health hub initiative, and Austin Dalgo, MD, associate professor of Pediatrics for UT Health Science Center and the medical director for the Soulsville hub.

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