Physician Breathes New Life into Career, Community

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Physician Breathes New Life into Career, Community

After 36 years as a pulmonary specialist, Dr. Leroy Graham will be breathing new life into his career and giving back in the process.

Graham will serve as the CEO and medical director of Bridge Atlanta Medical Center, Atlanta’s latest charitable health center set to open in late summer or early fall. The Norcross-based facility will provide both primary care and specialty care for those in need.

Yet this isn’t Graham’s first charitable rodeo. In 2002, Graham founded Not One More Life, a non-profit that provides asthma education and screenings to at-risk communities.

Pulse recently talked with Graham about both projects and his excitement for the future. “At 61,” he said, “it’s like I have that same zeal and passion when I first graduated from medical school.”

On the creation of Not One More Life:

“I founded it in memory of a patient I lost to asthma. His name was Kellen Bolden, a bright and engaging young man who had very severe asthma. We were very good at educating his family, his school and his church about his condition, and people were all watching out for him. As severe as his asthma was, we could always get to him in time. The family relocated to suburban Atlanta. He tragically died while waiting for a school bus. Ironically when we look back and evaluate the case, he had become increasingly symptomatic throughout the day. If those around him had been educated about his symptoms, they could’ve gotten in touch with his family and medical emergency services as needed. So I was struck by the fact that asthma education was almost as important as his asthma medication. Statistics for asthma really show marked disparities in morbidities and mortalities among ethnic minorities and the poor. Kellen happened to be a young black child. We got the idea of doing programs of asthma education and asthma screenings for high risk and poorer populations. We sought schools and faith communities as our partners, because of the trusted position they have in these communities. Since [2002] we’ve screened nearly 9,000 people in the Atlanta metro area and educated them.”

On what will be available at Bridge Atlanta Medical Center:

“It will be the first charitable health center in Atlanta not just offering primary care, but also specialty care. Studies show that many patients who have less healthcare resources are less likely to get the specialty care that they need. They need specialists to partner with their primary care providers to deal with chronic diseases such as asthma, COPD, hypertension, chronic heart failure and diabetes. Again these diseases are often more prevalent among minorities and the poor. …Georgia isn’t doing the Medicare expansion, so we still have a large healthcare gap. Roughly 400,000 Georgians fall between the floor of the Affordable Care Act and the ceiling of what’s called charitable medical services, Medicaid and Medicare. In Gwinnett County alone, there are 32,000 citizens without healthcare falling between that gap. So our mission is to provide excellent care to those who fall between that gap.”

On volunteers reaching out to him:

“We have nearly 300 engaged volunteers, and more than 100 of them are medical professionals. …Colleagues are contacting me each week. People are drawn to our concept and really have a heart to serve. For every one person we hire, we’re going to maintain four volunteer equivalents. The volunteers and employees range from administrative techs to medical assistants to LPNs and RNs to advanced practice providers. PAs and nurse practitioners have been reaching out, as well as primary care physicians and sub specialists. We’ll also have dentists. It’s one of the most joyful decisions I’ve made in my life. …I’m blessed with an incredible opportunity to work with an amazing group of people and really try and do something special in terms of a charitable health center.”

Not One More Life, 4514 Chamblee Dunwoody Road, Suite 463, Atlanta. 855-827-8462, notonemorelife.org.

Bridge Atlanta Medical Center, 4864 Jimmy Carter Blvd. Suite 203 ((NEW ADDRESS)). Norcross, GA 30093 877-406-6048 ext. 700, bridgeamc.org.

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