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MAVEN Project Telehealth Initiative to Improve Access to Specialty Care for Underserved Populations

Throughout Miami-Dade County, patients without health insurance frequently face long waits for specialty care. The collaborative MAVEN Project, launched on Friday, November 17, at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s Mailman Center for Child Development, promises to make a big difference by connecting patients’ physicians in the community to volunteer physician experts through telehealth technology.

From left, Gladys Campa, L.M.H.C., UHealth social worker and mental health counselor; Lisa Bard Levine, M.D., M.B.A., CEO, the MAVEN Project; Lisa Gwynn, D.O., M.B.A.; Diana Tunjano, UHealth medical assistant; Evette Torres, A.R.N.P., telehealth and special projects coordinator; Rolando Martinez, driver and registrar; Ana Maria Melero, A.R.N.P., M.S.N., M.P.H., clinical coordinator; Roxane Williams, M.P.H., program coordinator; Stacey DiStefano, director of strategic operations; and Maria V. Ferraris, M.Ed., project manager.

“We help primary care providers in underserved communities manage chronic conditions in a clinic setting, validate patient care plans and improve health outcomes,” said Lisa Bard Levine, M.D., CEO of The MAVEN Project, a San Francisco-based nonprofit. “Our physician volunteers include retirees and those in active practice who provide their expertise to help vulnerable populations.”

The MAVEN (Medical Alumni Volunteer Expert Network) Project is collaborating with UHealth—the University of Miami Health System, UHI Community Care Clinic, and Florida International University, leveraging grants funded by the United Way of Miami-Dade and the Health Foundation of South Florida.

“Telehealth is an excellent way to close the gap in access to care for underserved communities,” said Barth Green, M.D., executive dean for global health and community service, chairman and co-founder of The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, and professor of neurological surgery at the Miller School.

Green, a UHealth neurosurgeon and member of The MAVEN Project Steering Committee, added that the initiative demonstrates the commitment of Miami health care institutions and nonprofits to social justice. “Our physicians, fellows and residents want everyone to receive the high quality care they deserve,” he said. “This program will make a huge difference in the lives of children and adults throughout our community.”

Frederick Anderson, M.D., assistant professor and medical director for the Department of Humanities, Health & Society at Florida International University’s Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, pointed to the benefits of leveraging technology to care for medically underserved populations. “It’s a privilege to be part of this collaborative project that could serve as a model for the entire State of Florida.”

Khalid Mirza, board vice president at UHI Community Care Clinic in Miami Gardens, is looking forward to the rollout of the Miami-Dade telehealth program. “Being able to see a neurologist, cardiologist, endocrinologist or other specialists without delays is vital to improving the health of our patients,” he said. “By helping our team keep conditions like diabetes or hypertension under control, The MAVEN Project can reduce hospital admissions and emergency room visits, resulting in lower costs as well as better outcomes.”

The kick-off event began with a ceremonial ribbon cutting and included tours of the University of Miami Health System Pediatric Mobile Clinic and FIU’s Green Family Foundation NeighborhoodHELP Mobile Health Center. The day concluded with a site visit of the UHI Community Care clinic.

“We have been providing care to underserved populations for more than 25 years,” said Lisa Gwynn, M.D., medical director of the Pediatric Mobile Clinic, whose services include primary care for children, health screenings, well-visits, sports physicals, immunizations, management of chronic conditions, urgent care, mental health, and social work. “We have patients lined up and ready to be discussed with specialists, thanks to this great new partnership. This is truly a match made in heaven.”

Additional information is available on The MAVEN Project website.

Tags: Dr. Barth Green, Dr. Lisa Gwynn, Health Foundation of South Florida, MAVEN Project, United Way of Miami-Dade, University of Miami Health System