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From the Front Lines: Guest Edition with Dr. Jennifer Gill

Updated: Mar 30

Dear Friends,

In this edition of From the Front Lines, I am excited to share the perspective of BCP’s newest pediatrician and recently appointed medical director, Dr. Jennifer Gill. Dr. Gill recently wrote about the promise of BCP, highlighting how our unique model can overcome some of the most frustrating experiences endemic to our healthcare system.

From Dr. Gill:

Patients are Resilient and Determined to Improve Their Lives

I recently saw a family new to BCP: a mom and her three daughters, ages 8, 9, and 13. Originally from Haiti, the mom moved to Georgia and then to Western Massachusetts to live with extended family. Quickly, the house became too crowded, and the family was forced to leave and move into a shelter — of course, a very difficult situation. Yet, Mom is resourceful and determined and, with hard work, was able to get a car and find a job as a Medical Assistant (MA). By last year, she had moved her daughters out of the shelter and into a three-bedroom apartment in Boston 10 minutes away from BCP. All three girls are now enrolled in a K-12 Boston Public School, while Mom continues to work as an MA and has also completed one year of a two-year nursing program. The eldest daughter is in 7th grade, doing well in school, and is on a soccer team that she really enjoys. The younger two daughters, ages 8 and 9, are struggling more: both are overweight and spend a lot of time on screens, and one has untreated ADHD that has started to impact her school performance.

Like many families we see at BCP, this one is struggling on the one hand but also is having a lot of success and overcoming many obstacles on the other. Their financial stability is precarious: Mom is working their way out of poverty, but all it would take is one car accident, one illness, and one bad grade in Mom's schooling to halt their progress. The younger girls face real health and educational challenges against this backdrop.

Centering Dignity, Trust, and Belonging: What Happens When a New Family Joins the BCP Community

Enter BCP. Their first visit was on a Saturday, during which we had patient programming and a dermatology clinic running, and it was so joyful. Embedded right into their well-child visit, I was able to offer them so much, including afternoon BCP wellness classes, the support of a care navigator, the upcoming Camp Night, and the help of EdNavigator, a new BCP partner that will help the family navigate the school special education evaluation. The girls squealed with delight when we showed them Auntie Jane’s closet — filled with clothing where families can “shop” with dignity for what they need. I have never seen two little people so excited to try on leotards. The controlled chaos of the Super Fun Saturday program, which includes active games, music, arts and crafts, and a healthy snack for kids ages 5-10, that was also happening at this time just deepened the feeling of happiness — of community — and reinforced the unique welcome of BCP. The family left with food, hygiene products, clothing, new underwear, appointments with the on-site dentist, and the promise of more to come.

Relationships, Hope, and the Prevention of Provider Burnout

And I, a pediatrician for more than 20 years, left my Saturday clinic feeling so fulfilled, happy, and hopeful! As a medical provider, it is easy to feel burnout: we are responsible for so much box-checking that seems to detract from the profession of taking care of patients. Yet BCP is the creation of an actual medical home that is incredible — what we all talk about in medicine but very few are able to achieve. There was something about this family in particular that highlighted, to me, the promise of BCP.

The Promise of BCP: Partnering with Families to Change Lives

In the practice of evidence-based medicine, we are always looking for the randomized control trial (RCT) to guide our decision-making. In pediatrics especially, we struggle to define the metrics that can accurately capture the long-term health outcomes of children. For this family, there is no randomized control trial to describe how BCP will impact their health, but the family themselves will tell an important story. How did their health trajectory change when they walked into BCP? I imagine the girls will begin wellness programs at BCP: cooking, for example, and probably a sport or two. In multiple ways, from multiple perspectives, they will learn the importance of healthy foods and physical activity. One girl will be enrolled in EdNavigator, who will advocate for more support at school. She will work with our integrated behavioral health and medical teams for treatment of her ADHD. She will easily be able to see the consulting psychiatrist if necessary, and her school work will improve. The girls will be enrolled in summer camp programs and spend more time outside and less time on their screens. And if something happens to mom - if she falls behind in utility payments, for example - the care navigation team will be there to help her before the situation becomes too dire.

The Impact of BCP

A research study alone can't capture all that BCP does. For this family, the cascade of positive impacts from our various interrelated programs will have multiple reinforcing effects on their health and well-being — and these will improve educational outcomes, mental health, and overall lives. And at BCP, we will continue to grow and develop our unique model of primary care. That is the promise of BCP.


signature of Dr. Robyn Riseberg

signature of Dr. Jennifer Gill

Dr. Robyn Riseberg Founder, Boston Community Pediatrics

Dr. Jennifer Gill Medical Director, Boston Community Pediatrics


Stay tuned for further updates From the Front Lines, and do not hesitate to send us your questions, thoughts, and feedback.

FromTheFrontLines_ GuestEdition
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