Dr. James Coleman And G.A. Carmichael Family Health
“Operational Excellence” is their slogan. And in the case of the G.A. Carmichael Family Health Center is it an accurate–and apropos–summary of the facility’s mission.
With its’ primary location in Canton, Mississippi, the G.A. Carmichael Family Health center has, since being founded in 1972 as Madison-Yazoo-Leake Health Family Center, served area residents with top notch health care services, including diagnostic, preventive and restorative care.
The center was renamed to G.A. Family Health in 1996 to honor the outstanding legacy of Dr. George Albert Carmichael who had served in the Canton community and surrounding area for many years.
Presently, G.A. Family Health has expanded to include additional health care centers in Yazoo City and Belzoni, MS with another nine school-based clinics in Madison, Yazoo, Humphreys and other counties in the Central Mississippi area.
Now under the direction of new administrator, Dr. James Coleman, G.A. Carmichael is poised to increase the center’s services and to become an even greater contributor to the wellness and good health of its clients and its community.
“Our mission is summed up thusly,” Dr. Coleman informs: “We seek to provide quality, affordable health care with compassion and professionalism in the communities we serve. Additionally, we want to be viewed by the citizens and patients we serve and provide care for as their preferred medical home. All of this may sound like contrived bullet points but we take it quite seriously and to heart,” Dr. Coleman adds. “Quality care, gaining the trust of the patient–always with the utmost professionalism while recognizing cultural sensitivities and respect for the dignity of our patients–and respect for their privacy are our top priorities.”
Ambitious sounding, yes. But G.A. Carmichael, under Dr. Coleman’s leadership, is delivering on its mission with those priorities always at the forefront.
A Camden, South Carolina native, Dr. Cameron arrived to take the helm of the Canton location on June 1 of 2016.
“The position had been open for two years,” Dr. Cameron relates, “and I had seen the job listing on a national list that is accessible for community health centers. I had been a former administrator at another center and came and interviewed for this particular job in 2015, initially. Eventually, I was brought into to assume full responsibilities.”
Holding a Ph.D. in Health Care Administration who wrote his dissertation on chronic diseases and evaluation, Dr. Coleman received his undergraduate degree at the University of Central Arkansas and got his doctorate at the University of Tennessee.
What attracted Dr. Coleman to G.A. Carmichael in Canton?
“Several things, actually,” he answers. “Interestingly, Dr. Carmichael and I had pledged the same fraternity and were fraternity brothers which I found ironic in a positive way. We shared, because of that common bond, many similar goals. I wanted to come in to help further his outstanding work and build on the foundation he had so diligently put down.”
Cathy Travis, CFO of G.A. Carmichael, adds that one of the reasons the late Dr. Carmichael started the facility was that his patients were not allowed, at the time he was practicing, to enter the front door of the local Canton hospital, Kings Daughters, where he was a physician on staff.
What differentiates G.A. Carmichael from a hospital like Baptist or St. Dominic?
“We’re classified as a federally-qualified community hospital,” Dr. Coleman responds. “What that basically means is that we receive base federal funding for community residents who may be uninsured or under-insured–but we also take private insurance. We get a higher reimbursement rate for Medicaid and Medicare patients, and those with limited or no ability to pay, because we have a sliding fee scale whereby patients pay on their income level. If they have no income at all we cannot turn them down; we have to figure out how to give them the care they need.
We have no beds here, either,” Dr. Coleman goes on to say regarding differentiation. “We are a free-standing health care clinic that can handle primary health services, dentistry, podiatry, and are fully staffed with physicians, nurses and other health professionals including a pediatrician and an OB-GYN although we do not currently perform deliveries here. We do, however, have an affiliation with the Merit Health Center here in Canton where the expectant mothers can deliver their babies.”
With approximately 102 employees spanning the three aforementioned locations, Dr. Coleman says that patients from all over the state are welcome in all of those clinics–they are not delimited or kept from care if they do not reside in the geographical areas the Center covers.
When asked what imprint Dr. Coleman wanted to make on Carmichael or what he felt possibly needing changing, he responds “I would say that the foundation needed enhancing, not necessarily changing; primarily in the restructuring of how we handled financial and funding matters which is the main reason Ms. (Cathy) Travis was brought in, possessing an impressive and extensive background in accounting and overseeing financial operations. She joined us last August and Cathy understood our federal fiscal needs and adjustments. The learning curve is very steep in community health systems because of the requirements attached to those federal funding dollars,” Dr. Coleman adds.
“We all must understand our respective roles and responsibilities in what we do,” Dr. Coleman says, “and I we do. Our centers have the best possible staff in place to, not only take excellent care of the patients who need our services, but to also be in sync with our guidelines as community health centers overseen by a federal agency.”
What goals are in mind for Dr. Coleman regarding the future of and for G.A. Carmichael?
“Besides seeking other funding mechanisms, such as private contributions and grants, we are also looking to be service provides for, as but one instance, the local firefighters here in Canton. Additionally, we are looking at partnering with other businesses, such as Nissan, whereby their employees can come here for their dental care and we can help them reduce costs due to the fact that we are able, as mentioned, to adjust fees. All assistance from any business is tax-deductible. Any help is welcome and appreciated.
“We seek, and I think have accomplished, operational excellence here,” Dr. Coleman goes on to say. “Our staff provides excellent care and, if that care did not exist, many people who live here would simply NOT get health care. Pure and simple. That’s a huge plus for this community. We don’t judge patients by their income or ability to pay; think about what that means to so many people, financially and, frankly, emotionally–to be treated with dignity as human beings.”
Dr. Coleman says that expansion of the existing mission is possible and probable in the near future, specifically through a new site in Belzoni and by the construction of a brand new facility in Yazoo City and opening other additional facilities in the state.
“We also are looking at providing additional medical services, such as physical therapy,” Dr. Coleman adds. “Whatever the given community needs we will try our best to meet those needs.”
There’s a misconception that G.A. Carmichael is solely a facility for poor people offering substandard care. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” Dr. Coleman contends. “We are open for ALL residents and can provide as good as care–if not better–than any other provider anywhere else. The certification is the same. In fact, we may be even more attentive and qualified due to the federal scrutiny we are under,” he claims.
It is clear that G.A. Carmichael Family Health is a health care jewel and provides a much-needed asset to the communities it serves. For more information on the Canton administrative office/base and the satellite clinics, including hours of operation, please call 601-859-5213.
(BAMSouth.com will have more from Dr. Coleman and CFO Cathy Travis in a follow-up article coming soon)