Clinic Delivers Health Care, Adventist Message with Grocery Store Convenience

Early Solutions Clinics are located in retail shopping areas to provide health care and the Adventist message to busy people.Source: Adventist Review

[June 6, 2007] llness doesn’t keep “doctor’s hours”—and because of that, Juliet Santos, a nurse practitioner and Seventh-day Adventist, has found an opportunity to help people as well as bring a unique understanding of wellness to communities where such insight isn’t often easily available.

In February of 2006, Santos opened the first of what have become five Early Solutions Clinics (ESC), beginning in the cities of Taylor and Burton, Michigan. The clinics are located in large branches of the Meijer retail store chain, meaning basic, non-emergency health care is available to people outside of the usual business day, and for a lower cost—$49 to $89 per visit—than is charged by many physicians. ESC offers walk-in care for common medical issues, serving patients 18 months and older.

Santos is the president, chief executive officer, and founder of Early Solutions Clinic. She also served as president of the Michigan Council of Nurse Practitioners (MiCNP), is a former executive board member and treasurer for the American College of Nurse Practitioners and is an affiliate member of the medical staff at Oakwood Hospital’s Heritage campus in Taylor, Michigan

She received her master’s in nursing from Michigan State University in 1998, her bachelor’s in nursing from Pacific Union College in Angwin, California, in 1988, and her associate’s in nursing from Pacific Union College in 1986. Her husband, Melvin, pastors an Adventist congregation in Fenton, Michigan.

“Our clinics are a welcome option for busy people and their families,” said Santos in a statement when the venture launched. “The concept is to make professional health care as accessible and convenient as your favorite grocery store. ESC encourages early intervention and ultimately results in better and more affordable medical outcomes for the community.”

The clinics offer basic services for minor ailments, health screenings and early treatment and diagnosis for chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, anemia, obesity, and asthma. The services increase access to affordable health care and reduce patient waiting time for those not able to get same day appointments at a physician’s office.

Board-certified nurse practitioners provide care at each ESC location, the firm said when launching. Nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses with diagnostic and treatment skills. Each has obtained a master’s of science degree in nursing and has also received a national certification.

Clinics such as those run by ESC and Santos are part of a growing national trend: On April 24, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., president and CEO Lee Scott told the World Health Care Congress, meeting in Washington, D.C., that his chain intends to contract with local hospitals and other organizations to open as many as 400 in-store health clinics during the next two to three years, and if current market forces continue, up to 2,000 clinics could be in Wal-Mart stores within the next five to seven years, according to an announcement by the firm.

But there’s something more about ESC that separates it from the usual health care delivery system: Santos encourages her staff to utilize Adventist-based health principles, such as those typified by the acronym NEWSTART, with its dependence on nutrition, exercise, water, sunlight, temperance, air, rest, and trust in God, to help clinic patients handle health challenges.

“Through these clinics, we may help fulfill Ellen G. White’s advice to open up health centers in cities so that we can have many more lighthouses for God. This begins as meeting people’s needs, earning their trust, and befriending them for God. Eventually, the relationships developed may open doors for [those] visiting the clinics to get in contact with the local Seventh-day Adventist pastor for further spiritual care,” Santos explained.

The idea for ESC had its origins in adversity: Juliet Santos was hitting the infamous glass ceiling in her previous career, and could no longer progress. Her practice was experiencing challenging times, and, in what she believes was an answer to prayer, the inspiration for a network of affordable clinics was born. Along with it, though, came the challenge of managing multiple enterprises, as well as a family of her husband and three children.

“I couldn’t ask for a more supportive husband and kids,” Santos says. From day one, my prayer has been that if I agreed to do this with God, that He must take care of my family. I didn’t want to give up family life just to work all day long. As it turns out, it seems like I work all day long but yet God has still made provisions for me to spend quality time with my family.”

“God has always put me in positions of challenge. I didn't know why, but I always did my best to rise to the occasion," she explained. "Now that I look back, the path that God led me in was in preparation for such a time as this. I now have to unload every gift and talent that God had been cultivating for years so that I can use [them] for His glory," Santos adds.

Having stepped away from spending the majority of her time at her private practice in Taylor, Michigan, to start the new venture, Juliet’s income dropped from the “comfortable” range to below poverty level as she began her ministry in opening the ESC sites. During this time, she was funding ESC’s startup and operation, while also paying boarding school tuition for the family’s oldest daughter, as well as tuition for two other children attending junior academy.

At the same time, both family vehicles had to be replaced, the mortgage had to be paid, and other bills "floated" so she could continue expanding the growing enterprise. Juliet’s faith in God increased dramatically. She would pray first every time she paid the bills because she didn’t know where the funds would come from: “All I knew was that I had a pile of bills and I no longer had the income to support it,” she said. “It was the greatest test of faith in my life. Even though I hardly had any funds to cover the bills, I always allocated more than 10 percent for tithe. All I know is that God worked miracles beyond my comprehension.”

In its first year, more than 2,500 patients have been seen, and spiritual matters are discussed among the patients and staff. Juliet encourages her staff to pray for the patients. Her staff knows she prays for them as well. Some have requested literature to help them grow in their faith.

Just recently, Flint-area Adventist Churches were heavily involved with distributing a special magazine sponsored by the Michigan Conference. Several of the ESC staff, who are non-Adventists, took the periodicals home. The health and temperance department of the Michigan Conference also sponsors a magazine, Balanced, which is made available at all ESC clinics. As part of the training for new employees, they go through the history about the origin of the Adventist health message, and onetime Adventist physician John Harvey Kellogg’s role in the health system in Michigan. Area Adventists have also been helped by having access to health care right there in a local Meijer store.

“We are glad the Early Solutions Clinic, along with other health professionals, is utilizing the Lifestyle Matters Health Intervention tools and materials produced by the Michigan Conference,” says Vicki Griffin, director of the conference’s health and temperance department.