Neena Xavier, MD, assistant professor in the UAB School of Health Professions’ Physician Assistant Studies program, wins the American Association of Clinical Endocrinology Outstanding Service Award for the Promotion of Endocrine Health of an Underserved Population. She volunteers as the medical supervisor for the student-led Firehouse Shelter Wellness Clinic, which provides free access to health care for the homeless at the Birmingham shelter.

“You can’t do chronic care where they come to you,” Xavier told Endocrine Today for a recently published article. “If you want to manage diabetes care, you have to come to them and make it work for their environment. That is how you start to build trust.”

Xavier has witnessed much in her work with the local homeless population. Every week she works with clients to confront multiple barriers to their care. For the majority, this includes a lack of transportation to doctors’ offices, use of the Emergency Department for basic medical care, and no place to store their medicine or insulin, which leads to a high rate of medication spoiling.

She says when you look at the big picture; you don’t need huge outcomes to make a big impact.

“Our first outcome was time to referral – our time to getting help and on medication is three months which is a great turnaround,” Xavier said. “Also, we wanted to make sure they came back and we have 70 percent of our clients come to their follow-up appointment. Those are the kind of outcomes we look at.”

NeenaXavierdiscussionshotIn addition to her supervisor role, Xavier works hard as an advocate to broaden the scope of the clinic. In the two years since she has started working there, the School of Optometry has joined their efforts in providing screening and submitted to the UAB Grand Challenge to try and increase their resources.

All told, Xavier has contributed more than 350 volunteer hours to help the homeless community cared for by the Firehouse Shelter Wellness Clinic.

“It’s with great humility that I accepted the award, especially given the caliber of recipients for the other national AACE awards,” said Xavier. “AACE is able to recognize the importance of the work that we do.  It’s a testament to the impact of the clinic more than myself that I was even considered.”

She says whether you are talking about volunteer time or about grant funding – the key is not being siloed in your efforts.

“If you’re able to get everyone to buy into working together, pooling resources, that increases what you can do exponentially,” said Xavier.

The Firehouse Shelter, established in 1983, serves more homeless men than any service in the state of Alabama. The Firehouse Shelter Wellness Clinic, established in 2016, operates year round and has served more than 5,000 homeless people.

The UAB PA program, ranked #16 in the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings, is part of the UAB Department of Clinical and Diagnostic Sciences.