I have been an RN since 1975 and have worked at VUMC since 1987. I started working with HIV+ patients in 1991 and completed my MSN, FNP at VUSN that same year. I have been with the Vanderbilt Comprehensive Care Clinic (VCCC) since it opened in February, 1994. We were located off site at a clinic on Charlotte Ave from 1994 until 2010 when we moved to our current location at One Hundred Oaks.
My current role is caring for HIV+ patients. One of the most rewarding components of my practice is the Obstetric Comprehensive Care Clinic (OC3).
The VCCC follows over 3000 HIV/AIDS patients. When we opened, our goal was to help our patients die with dignity. With the onset of protease inhibitors in 1995-96, our focus became the hope of living. Since that time HIV has been reclassified as a chronic illness and we are providing primary care to HIV+ patients who have a near-normal life expectancy. I have been caring for some of my patients for >20 years.
I think one of our biggest challenges is affordable health care. Although many of our patients live below poverty they don’t qualify for TN Care. This is further complicated due to our state’s refusal to expand funding. How affordable health care will work is an unknown but a way must be found to provide health care to vulnerable populations. Because the medications are so costly, we struggle to devise antiretroviral medication regimens that our patients can obtain. They struggle simply to afford their co-pays. Such challenges to accessing and paying for health care is a public health issue as patients who have a detectable viral load are more likely to transmit the virus to their partners. Our successes at Obstetric Comprehensive Care Clinic (OC3) are what I am most proud of professionally.
Since its inception in March, 1999, we have had 314 babies born to HIV+ mothers and all are HIV negative except 1. I believe the OC3 clinic is a model for OB/HIV care across the country. Our OC3 clinic team huddles on Fridays and includes interprofessional members with expertise in HIV, obstetrics, adherence, nutrition, psychiatry, intense care management, and pediatric care. Several team members have worked together caring for this unique population for 15 years.
I have three wonderful adult children and cannot brag on them enough. Three years ago they stopped everything to be my caregivers when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I am cancer free now. I have precious memories with them by my side during that process. I am amazed by them almost every day. I love hiking, especially in Colorado, and try to get there as often as possible. I enjoy reading, biking, yoga and kayaking. Since surviving cancer I have started trying my hand at painting and art. Spending time with friends and family is the thing I cherish most.