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Posted: December 18, 2013

UNTHSC physician assistant makes ‘house calls' for disabled adults

Vic Holmes MPAS, PA-C
Twice a month, Vic Holmes, MPAS, PA-C, gathers his medical examination instruments and makes the 20-mile drive from UNT Health Science Center to a two-acre camp for adults with disabilities in Mansfield.

As goats, horses and a mule graze outside, Holmes spends four hours inside an examination area with camp attendees, measuring blood pressures, testing glucose and listening to heartbeats. Holmes knows each patient's name, personality and health ailments.

This may seem like an unusual setting to practice medicine, but it allows Holmes, a Physician Assistant Studies instructor and clinician, to fulfill the UNTHSC mission to provide effective primary care in the community. Autistic and intellectually and developmentally disabled patients can grow upset during visits to unfamiliar clinical settings at UNT Health, making them difficult to treat.

"It's basically a house call," Holmes said. "The familiar setting makes it much more comfortable for patients and much easier for me to meet their basic medical needs and keep them healthy."

Holmes started making the trek to Mansfield about one year ago. The camp, which offers outdoors activities and cooking and fitness lessons, is operated by A-Trinity HCS Services. Some camp attendees live in residential support homes around North Texas. Others live with their families or independently in the community.

Camp administrators converted a room into a sterilized exam area with an exam bed, a weight scale and a sink. Generally, Holmes sees eight to 16 patients during each visit.

The experience has intrigued UNTHSC physician assistant students who seek experiences with underserved communities and who occasionally request to visit the camp. An A-Trinity administrator says this arrangement has made a difference in individuals' lives.

"Instead of having any anxiety about traveling to a clinic, our individuals just walk to the other side of the building," A-Trinity President Allen Gould said.

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