Clinic treats racialized and vulnerable patients to address poor health outcomes
It's a dream come true for Dr. Danielle Brown-Shreves as she walks through the three-storey clinic she opened in the Glebe during the pandemic.
For two decades she envisioned leading a multi-disciplinary medical centre where vulnerable patients have easier access to health care.
"I wanted to do something for people who I saw having really poor health outcomes," said Brown-Shreves. "I grew up in Jamaica and that was my reality — poverty. I saw it really impacting health."
When she came to Canada, she realized people who looked like her were disproportionately affected, noting that data shows cancer mortality, chronic diseases and diabetes rates are higher among Black people.
During the pandemic, she saw a more urgent need for comprehensive, collaborative and compassionate care for the homeless, refugees and immigrants, particularly in the African, Caribbean and Black community.
"We use an equity lens to care for patients of all ages and races, but for my practice in particular I wanted to do something more for that community," said Brown-Shreves, who has a background in global health.
Collaborative medical approach
She opened Restore Medical Clinics on Bronson Avenue in April 2021, about one year into the pandemic, which currently holds a clinic for walk-ins and appointments, a pharmacy, a laboratory, and the ability to provide mental health services.
"We are looking after the head-to-toe needs of the patients, factoring all aspects of health, not just the physical," she said.
"Looking at sociodemographic factors that affect health, we think that can happen through multiple collaborations [of health-care practitioners]."
The third floor is now under construction to eventually accommodate dental, optometry and physiotherapy services.
An elevator is also being installed to make the building more accessible.
Culturally sensitive care
Brown-Shreves acknowledges access to health care is a huge challenge across the city. While some doctors within Restore Medical Clinics have wait-lists, some physicians there are accepting new patients.
Dr. Samuel Ijeh, who joined Restore last month, calls the clinic "a breath of fresh air."
"I've seen all sorts of people, particularly people who have been on the waiting list [at other clinics] for about five to six years, some as long as 10," he said.
He said he's met with patients from all kinds of ethnic groups and socioeconomic classes.
"They are coming here and finding an identity," he said. "For me it's about providing equal care to all this diverse group of people."
Patient Ime Patrick Edet said extra communication is key for newcomers who are trying to navigate the Canadian health-care system, crediting his doctor for providing a detailed road map about his health, and blood tests, which eased his concerns.
Matilda Boateng said having a Black woman as her doctor, referring to Brown-Shreves, makes her more comfortable.
"As a Black woman, she knows some of the things we go through. She can read between the lines for me," said Boateng.
At a time when some family doctors are tapping out due to burnout or retirement, Brown-Shreves said passion and compassion keeps her going.
"I'm trying to see what difference I can make to drive changes to better serve the community," she said.
The clinic provides space and mentorship to other Black physicians, medical students and high school students who may be interested in the field.
Brown-Shreves also runs a foundation that promotes education to young people.
"We support young Black people in whatever they choose, to be the best they can so there can be representation."