How Physicians CareConnection has become a health care hub for the underserved

Jess Deyo
Columbus CEO
Isi Ikharebha Green of Physicians Care Connection

The way Isi Ikharebha Green landed in her role as president of Physicians CareConnection (PCC) was a bit unconventional, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Green was a chemist, and she may have stayed on that path if it weren’t for a friend at the Columbus Medical Association, who encouraged her to apply for a job at sister company Access Health Columbus, today known as Healthcare Collaborative of Greater Columbus, to work on a free clinic model. Nearly two decades ago, she had no clue she soon would see the formation of PCC.

The healthcare nonprofit is the brainchild of Access Health’s program, Volunteer Care Network, founded in 2003, and the Physicians Free Clinic, founded in 1993. Both programs fell under the medical association and joined forces in 2009 as Physicians Free Clinic/Volunteer Care Network to serve any person who faced healthcare barriers. In 2011, the two groups adopted the name Physicians CareConnection.

So, what has made PCC so successful? The organization is packed with volunteer medical providers and 28 employees who offer their services free of charge. It has also been backed by all five federally qualified health centers in Franklin County and has raised $2 million for its 2021 budget.

Francis Blais, left, and Isi Ikharebha Green of Physicians Care Connection.

Patients of PCC can receive dental care, medical care, referrals for specialized care and more; however, the biggest flex may be its “communities, pathways and hub” model established in 2015 to provide care outside of the office. Housing, transportation and access to food are aspects that make a difference in whether someone can access care, Green says.

“We can help someone access a doctor to help them with their diabetes. I can help them get the medication,” she says. “But if they went home and their utilities were cut off, (they) can’t put the insulin in a refrigerator, right?”

For Bilkis Esan, the services from PCC were a divine intervention, she says. She was suffering from cancerous dense tissue in her breast when she met the team of care coordinators who connected her to the correct resources, provided her with aid for her medical bills and even paid for her transportation to appointments.

“Anytime I’m there I always feel so comfortable and relaxed because they always take care of my needs,” she says. “God really used them for me and my family.”

The key to providing such personalized care comes from community partnerships. For needs outside of the care PCC can provide, the organization will work to build relationships, whether it’s a food pantry or housing services. A major contributor is the Columbus Health Department, which allows PCC to run a clinic out of its space.

“As leaders from these different organizations, we are really trying to say, ‘How do we work together to create systemic change?’” Green says.

Working for the underserved, PPC also has aimed to tackle infant mortality rates with the creation of StepOne for a Healthy Pregnancy in 2016. The program connects women with suitable obstetricians in the area and helps to educate them, as well as provide resources like breast pumps. The program was inspired by efforts and collaboration with the city’s CelebrateOne agency.

Francis Blais of Physicians Care Connection

Dr. Francis Blais, a care provider for nearly 15 years and PCC’s board chair, has seen decades worth of patients and team members in his experience as an infectious disease specialist. But his memories with the nonprofit are marked by graciousness from both patients and providers.

It’s difficult to narrow it down, but a favorite memory for Blais comes from StepOne—the day a care coordinator took in a patient’s children for a few days in a moment of desperation so she could deliver her baby.

“That’s one of many examples of the dedication from the staff to help the patients in whatever way they can to achieve appropriate healthcare,” Blais says. It’s equally hard for Green to pinpoint a favorite moment, but she’s quick to mention what the organization represents.

“(PCC) means hope. It means service. It’s a way for me to live out my own purpose and be able to serve individuals.”

Physicians CareConnection

1390 Dublin Road, Columbus 43215

Mission: To provide high-touch care coordination to those in need.

President: Isi Ikharebha Green

Employees: 18 full-time, 10 part-time

Revenue: $2 million budget in 2021

Funding sources: Corporate donors