Health care is a calling for the doctors who work at the Community Health Center of Central Missouri, Chief Clinical Officer Crystal Sullivan said.
Sullivan should know. It was for her.
"I got into medicine because I was raised by a single-parent mother," she said. "We often struggled to make ends meet. She always emphasized education and raising a strong, independent woman."
Sullivan said she has a passion for taking care of patients who might not have the ability to get health care anywhere else — the under-served.
"I grew up as one of those children," she said. "As a child, there were times when I went to the health center in northwest Missouri, where I grew up."
Sullivan specializes in family practice.
She joined the center right after completing her residency at Capital Region Medical Center and worked there as a family doctor for about three years before accepting the lead position.
"We have people who are very mission-driven. This job can be difficult at times when you're dealing with patients who have a lot of issues outside of their medical concerns," Sullivan said.
They may see patients who have diabetes but also face possibly having their electricity shut off, are running out of food or can't afford their medicine.
"Those issues can make it a challenging environment," she said. "So if you're not mission-driven, it can be more challenging to continue in this profession."
Loving what you do makes it easier to handle the difficult situations that come along.
"I can't imagine doing anything else," Sullivan said.
She met her husband while attending Mizzou, and they have a son.
Once she completed her residency, they decided they wanted to stay in the area.
As a person who makes decisions about whom to hire for the clinic, Sullivan said she always looks for people who are mission-driven — who want to take care of the patients the center serves.
"It's different from private practice. It's different from other clinics' settings," she said.
The center accepts patients regardless of their ability to pay. It charges on a sliding scale based on that ability.
Sullivan's mindset is that even if patients don't have insurance or if they have Medicaid, the center must find a way to provide them the best care possible.
They want to do that regardless of whether the patient has financial, transportation or other limitations.
"You have to find people who have that similar mindset in order to provide the quality care that we're always striving for," Sullivan said. "And you have to be a team player to be able to function in this environment."
Doctors like Sullivan have to be able to work with the front desk staff, nursing staff, diabetes educator, behavioral health consultants and dentists.
"One of the things that sets us apart as a clinic is that integrated patient-centered model of care where we as a team work together to provide that best care possible for that patient," she said.
Doctors there focus on treating the whole patient.
"We're one of the best-kept secrets in Jefferson City," Sullivan said. "We've proven over time that we do take care of everybody. We do have multiple specialties here. We can address most of your health care concerns in one building. You can bring your whole family here.
"I think the word is starting to get out."