By Quinton R. Arthur
LANSING, Ill. (January 15, 2022) – Health disparities for Black residents on the south side of Chicago persist, even more during the pandemic. Isaac Palmer Jr. and Dr. Michael McGee seek to change narratives through the Minority Access To Comprehensive and Coordinated Healthcare (MATCCH) Foundation.
MATCCH Foundation is a Chicago nonprofit that supports health equity for south and west side residents. The organization focuses on several different aspects of health, including hypertension, diabetes, colon cancer, COVID, violence prevention, and mental health. As founders of the organization, both Palmer and McGee bring experience from the executive and patient-care level.
Creators of MATCCH Foundation
Born in Calumet City, Isaac Palmer Jr. has 20 years of health care experience in running hospitals. He has seen a history of poorly-delivered healthcare for Black people, especially those on Chicago’s South Side. He wants MATCCH Foundation to make a difference, not create another hospital bill.
“I want to bring effective healthcare that improves the overall health of the community, not just add patients in the hospital,” said Palmer.
Dr. Michael McGee grew up in Gary, Indiana, with a mother who served as a nurse for 30 years. He continued in the medical tradition by obtaining a master’s degree in Public Health in Epidemiology and Biostatistics from the University of Illinois in Chicago and a Medical Doctorate from Rush Medical College in Chicago. He is also President and CEO of Premier Urgent Care and Occupational Health in Hyde Park.
McGee recognizes that individuals often come too late, and those who need the most help have inadequate access.
A medical “concierge service”
As described by Palmer, the MATCCH Foundation servers as a supporter for the patient, offering a “concierge service.” The organization works with clients to understand their social determinants of health and medical history. From there, MATCCH encourages a relationship between the patient and their primary care doctor for better treatment.
Each service is customized for the patient using best practices. The service does not take the place of a doctor, but directs the patient towards better treatment plans.
“You need an advocate in your corner that not only knows you, but also knows medicine,” Palmer said.
The passion to help Black residents on the South Side comes from a personal place for both founders. Palmer admits he can do better at seeing his primary care doctor.
“For other Black men like me that are out there, the program will encourage that regular doctor visit,” Palmer said.
Personal pain results in positive growth
For McGee, a personal loss encouraged him to work towards making a positive impact on other’s lives.
During his last year in his residency program, his mother mentioned she was having pains at night. After an initial doctor’s visit, the cause was determined to be fibroids, a medical condition more common in Black women.
After returning home, McGee saw that his mother had experienced drastic weight loss. She recently retired from nursing to open her own assisted care living facility, so she was waiting until she received new health care benefits to go to the doctor. McGee covered her expenses, and it was revealed that she had enlarged uterine mass associated with an aggressive cancer. It was projected that she had a year to live but died 3 months after her diagnosis.
“It goes to show you that not having access destroys lives,” McGee said.
This experience brought him back to his hometown where he started MATCCH Foundation to help educate Black and brown people about their needs for accessing their health, following up with their doctors, and being more proactive in health. He believes that preventative care is key.
MATCCH strategically partners with organizations that help build community trust. A few of these organizations are the NAACP, Black Nurses Association of Cook County, Cook County Physicians Association, and Church of God in Christ Northern Jurisdiction. The MATCCH Foundation also has a partnership with the Health Care Council of Illinois (HCCI). HCCI will help find suitable placement options for long-term care by removing barriers, such as access to transportation.
“Studies have shown that Black patients are more compliant with a Black provider,” Palmer said.
Grants and support
MATCCH is also applying for a state grant from Healthcare Transformation Collaboratives for community partnerships.
According to their website, the goal of Healthcare Transformation Collaboratives is to reorient the healthcare delivery system in Illinois around people and communities. There are four major components in their Transformation Plan: community needs, health and wellness, specialized approaches, and sustainable investments. In 2021, the organization awarded $94.3 million to various organizations that focused on innovative and equity-centered solutions for Illinois healthcare.
If received, the grant will help MATCCH offer innovative solutions that can be shared across the country with cities that have similar statistics.
“This allows you to put it in a way that can be reproduced, make a positive difference in people’s lives, and it can be adopted in other places,” McGee said.
To find out more about the MATCCH Foundation, visit www.matcchfoundation.org.
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What a wonderful story, so proud of these young men!
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