Our Adult Special Care Practice is being honored by the Shelby County Health Department with a 2020 Light of Hope Award.

The award recognizes efforts to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS in Shelby County.

The Adult Special Care team is passionate about that mission. They provide the medical, social and emotional care their patients need to lead healthy lives.

Regional One Health’s Adult Special Care Practice offers lifesaving medical care for patients with HIV/AIDS, along with intangibles that enrich their lives: education, friendship, hope.

The Light of Hope Award is a fitting tribute to the men and women who make that happen every day, even at the height of a pandemic.

The award is presented on World AIDS Day by the Shelby County Health Department to honor work that fights the spread of HIV/AIDS. Cedric Robinson, infectious disease program manager, said Adult Special Care has been a leader in that cause for years.

“They have a long-standing role as the primary HIV provider for Shelby County,” he said. “They see the sickest of the sick and the poorest of the poor, and they’re recognized as the provider that really touches the majority of the people in Shelby County who have HIV.”

The honor comes at a time when Adult Special Care’s services are especially crucial to patients.

“During the pandemic, we knew we had to keep going, because shutting our doors would really impact the people we serve,” said Sharron Moore-Edwards, practice manager. “Our providers have been amazing. They went above and beyond to continue to provide care.”

Adult Special Care Medical Director Nate Summers, MD, MSc said staying open was the only way to ensure patients had the continuing care they need to avoid becoming seriously ill.

The Light of Hope Award honors work that fights the spread of HIV/AIDS. Shown from left are Dr. Bruce Randolph, Health Officer, Shelby County Health Department; Melissa Wright, Adult Special Care Support Services Manager; Sharron Moore-Edwards, Adult Special Care Practice Manager; and Cedric Robinson, Infectious Disease Program Manager, Shelby County Health Department.

“We need to see our patients in person to help them maintain their viral status and provide their primary care and management of conditions like hypertension and diabetes,” he said. “We offer a lot of supportive services as well. We try to have everything they need within our walls.”

Dr. Summers sees patients alongside physicians Robert Canada, MD, Sara Cross, MD, Christian Fuchs, MD and Mack Land, MD and Barbara Menzies, MD and nurse practitioners Alicia Barber, FNP, Joyce Elkins, MSN, FNP-C Crystal Walker, PhD, DNP, FNP-C, MSN and Alicia Wilson, APRN, MSN, NP-C.

Pharmacist Elysica Boyd leads the Adult Special Care pharmacy team that coordinates patients’ medications, and Michael Rikard, PharmD, makes sure the medication regiments are current and complete with no adverse drug interactions.

Patients rely on Adult Special Care for counseling, transportation, assistance for utility and food bills, medication copays and more.

“Those social determinants of health play a big role in patients’ outcomes,” Dr. Summers said. “It’s just as important as the medical care we provide. By addressing the social determinants, we can address some of the health care disparities we see in our community and our nation.”

It also helps patients avoid lapses in care. “Without these services, our patients may not be able to come back,” Moore-Edwards noted. “They can be dealing with a lot of things in their lives, so we make it as easy as possible to continue receiving the care they need.”

With HIV/AIDS, continuing care is the difference between life and death. Patients need to take daily medications for their entire life to stay healthy.

“The goal is to suppress and manage the viral load,” Dr. Summers explained. “People who are virally suppressed have near normal life expectancies, but missed appointments and disruptions in care stops viral suppression and increases the risk of negative outcomes.”

Patients at Adult Special Care receive the medications they need to suppress the HIV virus, along with primary care, counseling, dietary advice and social services.

He has seen patients who were hospitalized and even recommended for hospice regain their health within a year by staying on their medication. “There are few things in medicine that can result in such a huge turnaround for a patient,” he said. “It’s extremely gratifying.”

An impressive 75 percent of the practice’s patients are virally suppressed, Moore-Edwards said, thanks to its caring, multidisciplinary team.

Along with doctors and nurses, patients see a registered dietician who helps them eat to improve their overall health and a counselor to address mental health issues. The practice has a specialized pharmacy and onsite lab technicians to handle blood draws.

Case managers address social determinants and peer coordinators offer emotional support from the perspective of someone who has been there. Early intervention specialists reach out when patients miss appointments, and office staff treat patients with sensitivity and discretion.

“It’s an amazing team. Our patients know us, and we know them. We become their extended family,” Moore-Edwards said. “We know people come in here with burdens, so if we can make someone feel better physically and emotionally before they leave, we’ve done a good job.”

Robinson said that’s exactly what the Light of Hope Award stands for. “They were one of the first organizations in the city that saw people diagnosed with HIV, and for a long time they were the only place to receive treatment,” he said. “It’s important work, and we’re pleased to provide the acknowledgment they so richly deserve.”

Moore-Edwards said her team is humbled by the honor and committed to continuing serving patients with compassion and skill. “This is one of the greatest teams anyone could be part of,” she said. “We see the sickest of the sick, and we breathe life back into them. That’s the story of Adult Special Care, and the story of Regional One Health.”

To support our team as they care for our community, visit regionalonehealthfoundation.org.