When your physician looks like you and understands your culture, studies have shown your health outcomes are better.
Knowing that, Dr. Julia Joseph-Di Caprio, a Black physician, decided to open Leap Pediatric and Adolescent Care in the Midway last fall.
The longtime Merriam Park resident and former Longfellow resident observed, “There’s something about listening in a different way.”
A study out of the University of Minnesota looked at health outcomes of Black newborns, who die at three times the rate of White newborns. It found that when Black newborns are cared for by Black physicians, they are more likely to survive.
“That’s not to say that others can’t produce high-quality care, but we know outcomes are improved when bringing that level of cultural competency,” added Dr. Julia.
Leap addresses the continued and growing need for high quality healthcare for those who face the greatest barriers to health and wellness in a medically under-served area.
Since opening Leap with many partners, Dr. Julia has heard from patients that they had been looking for a Black doctor for their child. “I want them to see this as possible,” she said. “Many times people questioned my competence because I was Black.”
‘THE PERFECT PLACE TO BE’
Dr. Julia has practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine, collaborated with organizations, and served in various healthcare leadership roles and on boards during her career. She is on the faculty at the University of Minnesota. She spent 20 years with the Hennepin Healthcare system, which included a 12-year stint as Chief of Pediatrics. She was the first Black female physician to lead a department there. Also on her resume is chief medical officer at UCare, medical director at Medica, and physician leader for HealthEast’s care management entity and Fairview Health Services (when they were integrated). Her husband, Fernando Di Caprio, helps run QXMédical, a small medical device company based in Roseville. Dr. Julia’s experience with NorthPointe Health and Wellness Clinic in north Minneapolis prompted her return to practicing medicine.
She envisioned starting a private practice that would be small, non-profit and take insurance. It is more common in other parts of the country than in Minnesota. She also wanted to create a template that others could use. At Leap, they provide services to ages 0-26, including well-child checks, same day sick appointments, adolescent care, sports physicals, ADHD/mental health assessments, and telemedicine. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday to Friday.
Dr. Julia opted for a non-profit model because she wants the clinic to have longevity and live beyond her time. Board members include Mark Traynor (chair), Missy Staples-Thompson, Sheila Riggs, Patrick Mitsch, Kevin Flming and Dr. MayKao Hang. Leap Pediatric and Adolescent Care put in its 501c3 non-profit application in August. Their efforts were kick-started with a $300,000 grant from UCare.
The clinic moved into a temporary space on the third floor of the 450 Syndicate building in September, and then moved to Suite 250.
“It’s the perfect place to be,” remarked Dr. Julia. Not only are there other social service and health agencies in the same building, but they are close to pharmacies. The building also houses Community Action, Head Start, Health Partners Dental, Ramsey County emergency and family assistance, Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Service, and more. They are next to the Wilder Foundation.
The team worked to connect with local health care plans to join their networks. They currently accept UCare, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota and UnitedHealthcare, and are working to add others. They set up the necessary systems and back-ups to offer immunizations on-site as part of the Minnesota Vaccines for Children Program. Through a relationship with a lab, their testing results come back quickly. Dr. Julia lined up back-up doctors in case she’s on vacation or ill.
Their first patients last fall were via telemedicine.
Now, they’re working to get their name out there and connect with more patients.
“What we want to do is remove as many of the barriers as possible,” explained Dr. Julia.
With a small practice, people can get in to be seen and get in quickly.
Her 30 years in the Twin Cities health field means that Dr. Julia is well-connected and can advise on specialists. “Folks get the benefit of a really personalized approach to their needs, but at the same time they can access our specialists if they have the need for that,” observed Dr. Julia.
With the referral letter, Dr. Julia and the Leap team make phone calls to let the other office know about the patient coming and check up on whether appointments have been made. They want the hand-off to be seamless.
The approach at Leap includes county health workers who can help address the myriad of needs a family faces. A child might be seen for dental pain at Leap, and while there, they determine that the family needs help getting the child to the dentist. Dr. Julia is excited about the possibilities that come with a community health worker model.
“I understand why back office paperwork is complicated – it isn’t client-facing – and is complex. But I think we need to do more to make it easier for families,” stated Dr. Julia.
While Leap Pediatric and Adolescent Care offers modern services, Dr. Julia points out that part of her vision is a little old-fashioned. It’s one-on-one work, and right now she’s the only doctor there. “We’re the voices on the phone,” she said. Dr. Julia also give her patients her cell phone number.
As they move forward, they plan to continue to evaluate what areas their patients need support in and adjust to meet those needs.
If they have many patients who are from a specific cultural group, they plan to pull in a physician from that group. “If we’re going to be seeing a lot of Hmong patients, we need Hmong practitioners,” she observed.
“We don’t ever want to get to the point where someone can’t get in,” she added.
THREE BLACK WOMEN UNITED IN PURPOSE
Joining Dr. Julia at Leap’s office are office manager Tanjerae White, and medical assistant lab supervisor Crystal Johnson. The three have worked together at various points throughout their careers.
“I am proud of this because of the Black women I am here with,” said Johnson.
White has been in the medical field for 26 years, working her way up from medical assistant to office manager. She’s excited by her own growth and that of the two women she’s working with. She said she is proud to represent “people of our color.”
White added, “I think this will help a lot of young people.”
Reach Leap at 651-350-3580, Main@leapcaremn.com or www.leapcaremn.com.
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