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Dr. Cullen Rivers Photo by Sarah Walor
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Dr. Stephanie Call, known for her enthusiasm and approachability, says teaching is her favorite part of her job. Photo by Sarah Walor
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Photo courtesy vcu medical center
Service to the Community
Dr. Cullen Rivers
Partner at Pulmonary Associates since 1976 and founder of CrossOver Ministry
CrossOver Ministry, a free health clinic for people without insurance, began in 1983 when a sign announcing "Free Exams" was placed in a window at The Word of Life Church on East Broad Street. Inside, Dr. Cullen Rivers helped set up a bare-bones office with a black examination table, a sheet and a light bulb.
The idea grew out of conversations between Rivers, local business professionals and Buddy Childress, founder of Needle's Eye Ministries. The group of about 10 began exploring how they could tap resources in the faith community to meet needs resulting from reduced government spending on services such as health care.
"It seemed [that] a medical clinic would be a reasonable way to respond to these needs," Rivers says.
Every other Saturday, he and other doctors offered free exams from 9 a.m. to noon. Rivers recalls days when five to 15 people would walk in off the street for exams. Within six years, the clinic expanded to the third floor of the Richmond Street Center at Canal and Belvidere streets, and added a full-time nurse practitioner and a full-time physician who served as its medical director.
Though he sometimes had doubts about the clinic's effectiveness in its early days, Rivers says faith has kept it going. "Our faith tells us that we need to take care of those in need," he says, recalling the story of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel of Luke.
In 1991, CrossOver set up a permanent home on Cowardin Avenue and gradually added specialties, including primary care, obstetrics and pediatrics, podiatry, dental and vision care, mental-health care, HIV diagnosis and treatment, along with a licensed pharmacy. CrossOver also opened two more clinics and began health-education classes for community residents and jail inmates.
With 25 full-time employees and 625 volunteers, CrossOver is now one of the biggest free clinics in Virginia, serving 5,000 patients each year, for a total of almost 25,000 patient visits in 2009. "The community has responded, and really, God has supplied all that has happened here," Rivers says.
He attributes CrossOver's success to the work of volunteers and generous support from churches, individuals, HCA and Bon Secours health systems, and other organizations.
Dr. John Kuta, a neuroradiologist at Radiology Associates of Richmond, says Rivers shrugs off praise about CrossOver. "There is not an ounce of arrogance in him."
Rivers volunteers at CrossOver, running a pulmonary clinic one evening per month, and serves on its board. And he continues to have faith that resources will be found to keep the ministry running. "At this point, the operating budget is over $2 million. And we do not have [two] million dollars for next year," he says. "So, every year, it is by faith that you employ everybody here and continue to operate."
Dr. Stephanie Call
Program director of the internal-medicine training program at VCU Medical Center; associate chair for education, Department of Internal Medicine
Tall, lean and energetic, Dr. Stephanie Call animates her thoughts with her hands as she discusses the joy she finds teaching 120 internal-medicine residents at the VCU School of Medicine, the largest residency program in the state.
"There is no other [job for me]," she says, her eyes bright behind glasses with stylish brown frames. "It's an unmeasurable privilege to train physicians."
In her early career, Call found that internal medicine offered tremendous variety, allowing her to specialize in HIV/AIDS outcome research and explore palliative care as well as teaching and curriculum development. But despite winning awards at every institution where she has worked since her residency training, Call says she became disenchanted with medicine. About six years ago, she quit the faculty of an out-of-state university where she felt that her innovative ideas were not welcomed and the medical training had lost its focus. A few months later, she learned about a position as head of the internal-medicine training program at VCU Medical Center.
"I came and absolutely fell in love with VCU" and Richmond, Call says. She moved here in October 2004, and her family followed a year later. At VCU, "students are inquisitive, bright, altruistic and humble … I view it as, I am here to serve them."
Dr. Jonathan Blum, a second-year resident who is studying internal medicine under Call, says, "She really attacks every single day with an energy and enthusiasm that is contagious." He adds that Call is involved with the residents on a personal level and that he feels comfortable approaching her for advice on how to handle sensitive situations. "It is so easy to become cynical or depressed or down. … Her positive attitude is something to hold on to."
Call's passion for her work deeply affects her as well. "I cry a lot," she says. "It hits me hard when I have a resident drop out … I feel I have failed them." Her phone is on 24/7 for her resident students; it's not uncommon to receive a call at 2 a.m. or a visit from a student in the evening at home. Recently, "[I] taught my team a physical-exam skill that no one had taught them, that saved the patient's life. But, more importantly, [it] got them excited," she says. "I saw the light bulbs go off."
Routinely starting her work day at 3 a.m. is how she maintains what she calls "work-life health." Her schedule includes leaving work in time to pick up her three children (ages 9, 7 and 6) from school three days a week, playing basketball outside with them and cooking dinner. In addition, Call coaches her children's soccer and basketball teams. "I have the best husband in the world," she says. "We split everything 50/50." And each summer, the family spends four weeks camping and hiking — "that's our time."
Dr. Harold Young
Chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at VCU Medical Center
Dr. Harold Young leads a team of surgeons at the helm of one of the nation's top head-trauma programs. He's written more than 230 published articles, given lectures around the country and earned recognition locally for his work as an educator and clinician and for community service.
The neurosurgery wing at VCU Medical Center is named in honor of Young and his 38 years of work. Under his leadership, the department has generated more than $25 million in sponsored medical research.
Still, Young is reluctant to draw attention to himself. "I have a great team," he says. "If I had to do everything by myself, I would flounder. … It's not about me."
Unassuming and quick with a smile, Young is as likely to offer a kind word to a patient off the street as to a hospital executive, his peers say.
He began his career in neuroscience while in medical school at Ohio State University. "I loved the nervous system and people with difficult problems," he says. Before joining the staff at VCU, Young spent a year in Vietnam leading a wartime neurosurgery unit. He points to a small photograph of a building overlooking the Pacific Ocean. "This is the hospital where I worked."
Young says that during this time, he acquired an extensive amount of experience with brain-trauma patients. He holds up a purple-edged patch with a yellow center that he wore at the 312th Evacuation Hospital in Chu Lai — a reminder of an experience he says will live with him forever. He received the Bronze Star and Meritorious Medal in 1970.
"He is a great role model for young physicians … he is very humble and puts himself out there for people," says Dr. John Grizzard, director of noninvasive cardiac imaging at VCU. He recounts an instance when he called Young late one week about meeting a patient. Young readily opened his office on a Saturday. "He is unfailingly kind," says Grizzard, who has known Young since 1978.
Young says his medical-school chairman, Dr. Frank E. Nulsen, instilled compassion in him. He adds that this quality is one of the things he underscores with the resident students he instructs. "The greatest joy is taking young men and women and training them so they become great neuroscientists … with excellence and compassion," he says. "That's becoming increasingly challenging."
Young explains that great technological advancements such as the CT scan and the MRI can result in increasingly impersonal work, or what he describes as a decrease in bedside care. "It's important to take time to listen to each patient and hear their story."