One to One Health Center gives UTC students the chance to shadow physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and other healthcare providers in a primary care setting.
As a practicing specialist in internal medicine and pediatrics for more than 25 years, Dr. Keith Helton had long kicked around an idea in his head: Creating a community-based one-stop medical resource for downtown Chattanooga. “I wanted to do a comprehensive health and wellness clinic for Chattanooga and my patients,” Helton says. “I wanted it to be all-encompassing of primary care, fitness, nutrition, health coaching, behavioral health, physical therapy, occupational therapy, athletic training, all that.”
Jana Alfred works with Elisabeth Kelley during class in the Metropolitan Building. Lynette Carlson, purple mask, is the clinical education coordinator for Graduate Athletic Training.
While the concept of a multidisciplinary provider isn’t new, it is typically found in large hospital systems. What Helton wanted to create in private practice would be unique to Chattanooga. In fall 2019, the dream turned into reality. Helton bought a building near the old Alstom Plant along the Tennessee River to house his state-of-the-art facility, One to One Health, a workplace healthcare provider operated by physicians.
In the process of bringing the physical facility to life, he had a novel concept. Helton wanted One to One Health to engage directly with students from his alma mater, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He arranged a meeting with Valerie Rutledge, dean of the UTC College of Health, Education and Professional Studies, to discuss his idea for a partnership. “Dr. Helton reached out and said, ‘I have an idea that I believe would benefit students in your college. I would like to have some opportunities for clinical placements and internships for your students,’” Rutledge says in recalling the initial conversation. “We talked about everything from nursing to PT to OT to interior design to all the programs in Health and Human Performance. He talked about potentially using students in the summer months or on a part-time basis. Everything he talked about was set up to benefit students at UTC in a very concrete way. It has turned out to be a win-win for everybody.”
Helton, who received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from UTC in 1987 and a medical degree from the UT Health Science Center in Memphis in 1995, stressed the need to get students enthusiastic about careers within the healthcare profession. “This is about getting kids excited about healthcare and seeing what it’s like to help somebody,” he says. “It’s not in a book. You can’t study it. You have to feel it by working with patients and seeing them improve, seeing their lives improve and being associated with it. Getting students engaged and excited around that is the mission for me from the university perspective.”
This fall, students in the UTC graduate athletic training program are utilizing One to One Health as part of their general medical rotation. Students get the chance to shadow physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and other healthcare providers in a primary care setting. While you might think of them as the people running on the field when an athlete gets hurt, “Athletic trainers are first responders who have to possess general medical knowledge,” says Lynette Carlson, UTC clinical education coordinator for the graduate athletic training program. “If they are working in a traditional setting, such as a high school or college, athletes are coming to them first with coughs, sniffles, skin conditions or any number of things.”
One of those benefitting from a One to One Health rotation is Bonnie Jo Blevins, a UTC second-year athletic training graduate student. “I learned right away that this was more than just a doctor’s office,” Blevins says. “It’s amazing that we have the opportunity to actually see gen med (general medicine) because not everyone gets that option. We’re getting a bigger picture of the whole process. I think it’s really important that there’s a doctor’s office so close to campus that is so willing to let us come in and do a rotation with them.”
“I think it’s really important that there’s a doctor’s office so close to campus that is so willing to let us come in and do a rotation with them.”
Blevins is accustomed to working with athletes. In fact, she was one herself during her undergraduate days at Hollins University in Virginia, where she played soccer and lacrosse. But in her time at One to One Health, she worked with a host of people from everyday life. “I love the way One to One Health works on integrating the whole person,” she says. “Not only can you be treated for an illness, but they have fitness trainers and nutritionists and athletic trainers and doctors—and they work seamlessly to care for one person. It’s really neat how they integrate it.”
Getting athletic training students involved shadowing healthcare professionals assists them in being able to recognize what they can or cannot treat and helps them understand different medical conditions. “I learned a lot more about diabetes than I knew before, like how they measure the A1C count,” says Jana Alfred, a second-year graduate student. “They gave me little tips about how to draw blood, and they were letting me feel the patient’s veins and showing how you should enter the needle. They never let me try it, of course, but it was just very thorough on their part.”
One of the initial medical professionals Alfred shadowed during her first day at One to One Health was the facility’s visionary. “Being behind the scenes, you saw how people like Dr. Helton worked with patients,” she says. “It was nice to see the other side because, as an athletic trainer, you have to work hand-in-hand with doctors. It was all so enlightening to see.”