The doctors are in: Cedar Hall

Roberto Campos

Keegan Ellermann, 17, felt some pain in his lower back, but instead of going to St. Mary’s, he decided to visit USI’s Cedar Hall Community Health Center.
Graduate nursing major Alivia Tekoppel watches while Nurse Practitioner Allison Kriger lifts Cedar Hall patient Keegan Ellermann’s leg to test pain in his back.

Keegan comes from a family of five that is uninsured, so Cedar Hall was a good option for him to seek treatment for his back problems.

“The amount of people that are uninsured is a problem that most don’t realize,” said Melissa Ellermann, Keegan’s mother. “It’s a big issue, so having somewhere like Cedar Hall where people who are uninsured can get treatment without worrying about all the strings that are attached is nice to have.”

She said she thinks there are other bigger families who are uninsured in Evansville as well.

“Having a facility like this for the community is very helpful because if you don’t have insurance it’s hard to get a doctor,” Melissa said.

Opened as an extension of USI’s College of Nursing and Health Professions, the health center provides hands-on opportunities for USI undergraduate and graduate students in a multitude of fields, including nursing, social work, and food and nutrition.

“When (students) are in school, we learn to suggest all of these preventative services, but once you get out there in the real world, not everybody can afford to get their colonoscopies and labs,” said Alivia Tekoppel, graduate nursing major.

The preventative services the community health centers offer can prevent things like cervical cancer, she said.

“For students to have a chance to be a part of that is important – it helps you learn about the real world situations you might face,” she said. “It allows us as students to learn how to deal with these situations in the student role before we’re the person making the last call in situations.”

Keegan said he thinks the health center is a good thing for all parties involved.

“First-hand experience is the best way to learn and it’s great for both the students and the community for there to be this kind of opportunity,” he said.

Founded in early January, the Cedar Hall Community Health Center opens its doors every Wednesday to provide primary care to the community. It has seen 31 patients from the community in the six Wednesdays it has been open.

Cedar Hall has seen an increase of walk-in patients, according to Cedar Hall’s outreach and operations manager Karin Pruitt. She said she thinks that it could grow bigger than USI’s first community health center, located at Glenwood Leadership Academy, based off of community reception.

The Cedar Hall and Glenwood Community Health Centers are nonprofit clinics that fund their operations by using a grant provided by USI. To sustain the health centers’ operations, the faculty work to maintain both patients who come on a regular basis and patients who are insured.

President Obama’s Affordable Care Act could allow the Cedar Hall and Glenwood Centers to increase their longevity.

“Under the Affordable Care Act, there would be more people with insurance, and that’s something that would really help us with sustainability,” Pruitt said. “I can only think of positive things that would benefit us from the act.”

Cedar Hall Community Health Center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays at Cedar Hall Community School. There are plans to open a third health center in 2014 at the Juan Diego Latino Center located at Nativity Catholic Church.