Spotlight: The Teen and Young Adult Health Center By Nancy M McLaren, MD

The Teen & Young Adult Health Center is unique in Pediatrics; we provide both primary care and specialty care to patients ages 11-26. Our staff consists of two adolescent medicine physicians, two nurse practitioners, a psychologist and our community educator. We have also been very fortunate to have wonderful nursing and front desk staff who have been with us for many years and are the face and foundation of the clinic. Our goal is to help our patients take responsibility for their own care, coaching parents and teens to address risks like alcohol, drugs, violence, driving, sex, etc.

We are so excited to be part of the Battle Building – we have a wonderful new home! The location has allowed providers in the university and local communities to get to know us better. Since we’ve relocated, we’ve seen an increase in patients.

We are a leader in the country for promoting long acting, reversible contraception. We have two nurse practitioners who deliver training all over the United States. Three quarters of our patients that use contraception are using a reversible method and we’ve seen teen birth rates decrease in our area.

We opened a multidisciplinary Trans Health Clinic two and a half years ago with Pediatric Endocrinology and now provide care to over 80 patients.  It meets every three months. In addition we can see patients either in our clinic or Pediatric Endocrinology outside those times. The clinic is a leading program in Virginia for providing care to trans youth and young adults. We also provide education to other providers by speaking at workshops and regional conferences. In addition, we are the home for Side by Side, a LGBTQ support group for youth ages 14-20. Our Community Outreach Coordinator leads the program every Monday. Recently we have seen an increasing number of patients with eating disorders. We are working to set up a comprehensive program that we hope will include a nutritionist, a therapist and a case manager. Dr. Julia Taylor, one of our adolescent medicine doctors, is spearheading this work.

We are incredibly active in the community. We focus on outreach and visit schools, parent groups, community programs and churches in the area, providing educational programs and advocacy activities.

The center recently received a 5 year grant to bring school-based telehealth to underserved areas of Virginia. We will focus on adolescent health primarily in Grundy and Martinsville.  We are very excited for this grant and for the opportunity to train youth to be peer educators. We will also be looking at childhood obesity and how we can help set up programs to help.

We are an active training center and serve as the site for the pediatric residents’ adolescent rotation. In addition, we have a medical students and nurse practitioner students with us on a regular basis and also welcome nursing, ethics, and psychology students.  As we continue to grow, we want to expand our research efforts. Long term, we hope to be a bridge for transitional programs, seeing our patients from childhood into adulthood.

On a personal note, I started in this field because it was community- based, which was my interest coming out of residency. I love being able to provide care to an underserved population and meet their needs. It is really fun to watch the patients develop into teens and young adults. Getting to know them and their families and watching them take responsibility for their health is a great feeling. This work allows each of us to be creative and work on our passions. The people we work with are supportive and fun. We’ve been together a long time and everyone is really dedicated to the patients and community. We are excited for what the future holds.