Many talk about the need to reduce disparities in health care. Ophthalmologist Chasidy Singleton, MD, shows how the gap can be closed, one physician at a time.
Whether the patient in front of her is an enrollee in a fully insured health plan, a shackled prisoner or a bedridden senior, she provides the same level of care.
“It's our duty as ophthalmologists to think about each patient that comes in our chair as a whole,” Dr. Singleton said. “We all joined this profession because we wanted to be, as they said in medical school, 'A good doctor.' So, we have to think about that as we think about each person and think about ways that we can improve the quality of life for each of us.”
Dr. Singleton was in her second year of residency at Vanderbilt when she was offered a job at Nashville General, a community hospital that serves the underserved and underinsured. She jumped at the chance to serve her community. She sees the patients no one wants to see, from those in nursing homes to prisons. “I’m happy I get to take care of them, and make a big impact on their life,” Dr. Singleton said.
“I really had a heart for those patients,” Dr. Singleton continued. “There are many circumstances in their life that prevented them from obtaining the care that they needed for their eyes. They also had a lot of trust issues with medicine, and just because of the circumstances of their life.”
Dr. Singleton overcomes those trust issues through a combination of excellent surgical skill and authentic humanity. She doesn’t just take care of patients, she builds relationships with them.
“I find it a privilege to work with these people and I let them know that,” she said. “I thank them for allowing me to take care of them and putting their trust in me. They don’t have to do that, and that helps build a relationship with the patient.”
She doesn’t wait for patients to come to her with advanced disease and bleak prognoses, she goes out to churches and health fairs, raising awareness among individual patients about the importance of regular eye exams.
“You have to be active in the community,” Dr. Singleton said. “That’s hard as a physician because we don’t have a lot of time. But we have to make time if we care about what’s happening to the people around us.”