Spreading the health

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception launches new ministry with health clinic
By claudia mathis / SUN staff writer

It was the fulfillment of a dream. On July 2, Amaus Health Services at Cathedral opened in Syracuse. The mission of Amaus is to provide quality and compassionate interim primary care to those who have access problems to fee-for-service and insurance based health care. In addition, the clinic will serve as an initial contact for individuals who are in need of additional services and support such as housing, legal aid, pastoral care, job coaching and food.

Another part of its mission is to provide education for those who are training to be health care and social service professionals.

For Dr. Lynn-Beth Satterly, assistant professor of Family Medicine at Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, the opening of the clinic was the realization of a long-held desire to provide medical care to the underserved. Satterly, along with four nurses and one medical student, treat those in need two days per week at the clinic, which is located in the building that houses the Downtown Emergency Assistance Program. So far, 45 patients have been treated at the site and many have come back a second time. “Upstate has been most generous and good to me in allowing me to serve at the clinic,” said Satterly. “University Hospital has also been incredibly supportive. They have provided our patients with things like emergency room care, chest X-rays and specialty care.”

Satterly said that the patients she treats are grateful for the medical care they receive. “One of the things they like is that the clinic is within walking distance of where they get their food and also that it is on a bus route,” she said.

Satterly, who serves as director of the clinic, is a board-certified family physician. She and her husband, who is also a family physician, ran a private practice in Cicero for 10 years. When Satterly and her husband first met, they concurred that someday they wanted to work with the underserved. “When we closed our practice, we put our equipment in storage because we figured somewhere down the line we might be able to do this for the Cathedral,” said Satterly. “It’s a labor of love for me. It is something in my heart that I’m compelled to do and I’ve recognized it in myself for many, many years. I best experience God in good relationships with other people. This is the way I feel called to personally respond to the Gospel. My husband does the accounting for the organization. This clinic is a labor of love — of many people coming together.”

As a retired nurse, Fran Bergan offers her skills at the clinic and said that her participation in executing the vision of the clinic has been an exciting endeavor. “Dr. Satterly’s enthusiasm, commitment and values touch every aspect of the service,” said Bergan. “Seeing individuals from various professional fields (physicians, pharmacists, nurses, administrative types, med students and staff from the food pantry) coming together to lend their ideas and talents has been a great experience. After coming from a complex health care setting, it is wonderful to be working with people who have no hidden agenda, and the actions of all are transparent and are carried out with positive intentions.”

Satterly noted that among the people who work to carry out the mission are a lawyer and a number of pharmacists who are part of the Social Action Committee at Cathedral. “The lawyer handled the legal entity for the program and the pharmacists take care of our medication samples room and catalog everything, so that if we give a sample of something that is recalled, to the best of our ability, we can reach that person,” said Satterly. She added that local practices and drug companies donate the clinic’s medications.

“Our dream is to get funding to be able to expand the hours of the clinic or to get other physicians,” said Satterly. “We have a couple of retired physicians from St. John the Evangelist that assist me in whatever way they can. They triage and do the initial work with the patients. We are also in great need of an EKG machine.”

At times the demand for medical attention is overwhelming for the clinic’s staff. Satterly remembered how there were some days in which she treated 11 people in a very brief time period.

Satterly explained how the vision for the clinic began. A year ago, following Mass at the Cathedral, Msgr. Neal Quartier asked Satterly and her husband what they thought about the feasibility of doing some medical outreach. “I had been doing some work with the Social Action Committee at the Cathedral — things like a blood pressure screening at the back of the church,” explained Satterly. “And even though I had been and remain working at the Poverello Health Services on the North side, I also felt very much like I wanted to start a site that had a dual mission where I could teach as well as serve. The fit was just perfect. Father Quartier’s vision is such that he has the courage to allow people to use their gifts, to make changes and to serve. He was willing to empower me to live this dream.”

Satterly said that Msgr. Quartier has made a great commitment to working with those people of limited means. “I was always aware that the street people don’t have access to good medical care,” said Msgr. Quartier. “I’ve noticed when they don’t wear the proper footwear in the wintertime and when diabetics didn’t have access to insulin. We wanted to reach out to them. We’re very excited because of the clinic’s success.”

Dr. Satterly said that through volunteering at Poverello Health Services over the last three years, she has learned to be present to those of limited means. Sister Delores Bush, OSF, and Sister James Peter, OSF, who minister at Poverello, inspired Satterly to start up the clinic. “The reason I had the guts to do this,” Satterly said, “is because they said, ‘Of course, you can do this!’”

“Our goal is to renovate Cathedral School and to potentially have a multi-service community center where we will actually address all of the factors that make someone become destitute,” said Satterly. “We will also empower and teach. I can’t fix everything that makes their life difficult, but I can always be present. I can suspend judgment, and as I try to treat their medical illness, I can provide them with positive regard. I see that as possibly even more important than the medical care I deliver.”

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