Have you ever wondered about what healthcare can look like in other countries? What about how places like Vietnam, Nepal, or Kenya provide care? Well, if you’re looking for an answer, look no further than Nurse Practitioner Abbey Roepke. Prior to joining the ChesPenn team at our Eastside location in 2020, Abbey had applied to Seed Global Health–a highly competitive program in Uganda that provides critical care and training in developing emergency rooms. Shortly after she began her time with us, she learned that Seed Global Health had accepted her application. Because global healthcare had been a lifelong goal for her, how could she say no?
Originally from Wisconsin, Abbey completed her BSN at Winona State University in Minnesota and her residency at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. She then found herself at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia some years after the completion of her undergraduate work. While at UPenn, Abbey completed her Nurse Practitioner Master’s degree and her Master’s in Public Health. Fun fact, Abbey didn’t start out as a primary care provider in the public health sector. Prior to her primary care career, she was in cardiothoracic surgery in intensive care units. “I did volunteer work in the community and did some international work, and so I wanted to get more into public health and feeling like I can be more impactful on a larger scale,” Abbey said when asked about her background. With Abbey’s experience and expertise, it was a no-brainer to join the FQHC community in southeastern Pennsylvania.
Abbey had a connection to ChesPenn prior to joining. She had worked alongside ChesPenn CEO, Dr. Gary Davis, at a different FQHC in Philadelphia. Dr. Davis recommended that she apply to ChesPenn. She took his advice to visit our Eastside location and loved how the organization operated. It made her decision to come to ChesPenn that much easier When asked what attracted her to ChesPenn the most Abbey said,
I feel like people are all in the same mind space here, and people generally care. We want what’s best for the patient and we focus on the quality of care, not just numbers.
So, what does quality care mean to Abbey? She likes when the patients she sees, roughly 12 per day, are satisfied and made comfortable. She understands that it can be intimidating coming to the doctor’s office. Some people don’t want to hear bad news, or there are more complex social and linguistic barriers. All of these factors could be obstacles to quality care, but not for Abbey. She works with her patients to assist with their care, outside of the medical plan of care that she designs for each patient. This could mean helping schedule appointments with specialty care providers or calling the pharmacy. But her favorite part about ChesPenn is the culture. “I love working with the patients, but culturally and organizationally, you can feel that it’s much different [than other FQHCs] and they want you to grow professionally and they want what’s best [for you and the patient], and just that the overall organizational culture is probably the best thing because it transcends down through the organization all the way to patient care.”
The culture at ChesPenn is vital to the quality care that is provided to the patients. ChesPenn defines its core values as compassion, teamwork, integrity, quality, and inclusion. These values are what build the foundation of the culture at ChesPenn. Our staff and providers facilitate these beliefs through their day-to-day work in the communities they serve whether it be in Upper Darby, Coatesville, or at Eastside with Abbey. Abbey may have only been with the organization for a few months but she loved her time with ChesPenn. In fact, the Eastside office has had such an impact on Abbey in her short tenure with the organization.
It’s changed the way I’ve looked at community health centers, and in primary care and knowing how impactful you can be in a patient’s life.
Abbey is currently in Uganda working with hospitals and emergency care facilities in conjunction with local universities. Her interest in this line of work peaked during her time with an organization called Cardiostart. They conducted healthcare education on building the capacity of cardiac surgery and intensive care units in various countries, like Nepal and Vietnam. Abbey was part of the team that helped build an echo tech training program in Nepal. According to her, there were no echo techs at all prior to the implementation of this program.
One of Abbey’s favorite things about global health is the impact it has had on her ability to provide care. It taught her the importance of social determinants of health for her patients, “you can help them [other countries] do cardiac surgery on patients but ultimately if they just go back to a water-filled house, they’re probably going to get pneumonia and have a bad outcome. But being aware of them [the social determinants], being able to adapt care or provide realistic care in those setting is where I probably learned the most from.”
We wish Abbey the best of luck with her endeavors in Uganda. Abbey is dearly missed by the whole organization. She was a prized member of our Eastside family during her six-month tenure at ChesPenn and her coworkers are hoping she will come back when she gets home! But as much as Abbey has changed our lives, ChesPenn changed hers too.