Colleen Kimball, APRN, FNP-C, manages the Hogg Clinic.
Colleen Kimball, APRN, FNP-C, manages the Hogg Clinic.

“We knew they needed us, so we thought, how can we let them know we’re here?”

IN THEIR OWN WORDS: Voices of the COVID-19 crisis

“We knew they needed us, so we thought, how can we let them know we’re here?”

5 Minute Read

Family Nurse Practitioner Colleen Kimball manages the Hogg Clinic, part of the Memorial Hermann Health Centers for Schools program. She spoke to TMC News on April 13, 2020. 

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Our clinic—the Hogg Health Center—is located at Hogg Middle School in the Heights, and it is part of Memorial Hermann Health Centers for Schools, which includes ten school-based clinics and three mobile dental vans. We’re designed to be a comprehensive medical home for uninsured and underinsured children.

We’re a super small team: I’m the nurse practitioner and the clinic manager, and then we have Celia Ramos, a licensed vocational nurse; Janet Morales, our office assistant; Ecenthia Burnett, who is our social worker; and Adabelle Franco, our navigator and also a dietitian. That’s it! We’re a little portable unit and we have a full pharmacy where I can give over-the-counter medications, antibiotics, vaccines—everything free to the families. We also have our own on-site lab.

It’s been challenging with the Stay at Home Order. A lot of our patients think we’re closed because HISD [Houston Independent School District] is closed, and we also have a large number of patients who are immigrants. We found out that there has been a lot of fear spread throughout that community. People were being told that if they were caught out during the Stay at Home Order, or if they were found to have COVID-19, they were at risk for being deported. It’s awful. Our numbers dropped significantly because of fear. But we knew they needed us, so we thought, how can we let them know we’re here? We started calling them until they would pick up, and our office assistant would explain to them that the rumors were not true and that even people who are here illegally have a right to free care.

Then we thought, what else can we do? We were following the HISD food sites that kept closing and our social worker had the idea that maybe we could supplement that for our families who might need it. We do a food insecurity evaluation on all of our patients and families, and that basically tells us if they are at risk. We pulled that list and decided to go from there. We started out with ten families and what we found is that if you tell people you have toilet paper and paper towels and food, they will come.

We went to the Houston Food Bank’s website and found the closest distributor, a little church around the corner called St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in the Sixth Ward. When we went over there we found a little note on the door, and so we called the phone number and the ladies there said absolutely they’d help. There are literally two women doing all this work—they are operating on donations and running out and still helping us. They are in desperate need of some items, including men’s socks. They made ten big bags for us with things like frozen chicken, orange juice, nonperishables, and then we pooled our own money and supplemented and got all kinds of stuff, even Easter candy. When our resources ran low, our medical director at the Hogg Clinic, Dr. Steven Alley, helped us purchase the remainder of what we needed, and he plans to continue that contribution each week as needed.

Colleen Kimball, APRN, FNP-C, photographed on April 15, 2020. (Credit: Cody Duty)

We called the families and they came one by one—separated by time slots. We screened everyone over the phone first for any symptoms of COVID-19, and then every single person who shows up at our door has to be screened with a series of questions and also has their temperature taken. We’re also wearing masks and gloves all day.

We were able to do an intake on each family and go through their kids’ charts and see what they needed and if they had any illnesses. I also gave them a little bit of a COVID-19 education, and our social worker was able to do the consent form for telehealth because we just so happened to pull people that also had kids who were engaging in some sort of mental health services, either for grades or for family or home or personal challenges. We were also able to schedule appointments the following week for anything else they might need, like immunizations or other kinds of health care issues. They could just see that it was safe, that we’re here if they need us, and that we’re not closed, which is so essential. If we’re not serving those uninsured or underinsured people, then they’re going to go the ER and then the ER is going to be overcrowded.

We also found that people have lost jobs, that they don’t all know how to fill out an unemployment application or that they can’t pay rent. There’s a whole host of other problems and we were able to take a list and connect them with our navigator who can help with additional outside resources.

So now we’re going to keep doing this for ten families every week. And I recently found out that the Houston Food Bank is going to use our clinic one day in April as a food distribution site and provide food for 100 of our families, which is amazing.

Hogg Clinic staff hang a welcome sign ahead of the Houston Food Bank distribution day on April 30, 2020.

I will say that the biggest blessing for me is that from the time I was small, I wanted to do some type of mission work. And my life took a huge turn. I went from being an opera singer and then working as a school nurse and then working in cancer, and I feel like I’ve come back full circle and I’m doing mission work right here in my own community. How lucky am I?

— Colleen Kimball, APRN, FNP-C, as told to TMC News senior writer Alexandra Becker

The Hogg Clinic’s outreach program is in need of the following items: Nonperishable food, bags of fruit, vegetables, whole chickens or hams, toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies and men’s socks. To donate, call the clinic at 713-864-7614 from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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