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All over eastern Tennessee, Cherokee Health Systems is helping to ensure every resident has access to effective, high-quality health care. Their nearly 50-year history has made them a trusted source of care for thousands.

And with 21 sites, this Federally Qualified Health Center is making a huge impact. Last year alone, Cherokee’s health care providers saw more than 70,000 patients, for everything from diabetes and dental care to arthritis and substance abuse disorders.

Unfortunately, the region lacks sufficient access to specialty health care, and many of Cherokee’s patients aren’t able to get the care they need when they need it. Roughly one third of their patients are uninsured and long wait times among specialists for patients who do have insurance lead to myriad challenges. That’s where MAVEN Project comes in.

“MAVEN Project’s e-consults are filling a vast gap for us,” noted Gail Reilly, medical director at Cherokee Health. “Our team has had a great experience with their expert volunteers. They’re so prompt in responding and really understand the challenges our providers face.”

Cherokee’s medical corps of 75 have access to e-consults in dozens of specialties, as well as regular Continuing Medical Education opportunities and 1:1 mentoring with MAVEN Project’s expert physician volunteers.

“Giving our providers opportunities for professional growth and learning is a big part of what we do at Cherokee Health,” said Brad Carter, assistant medical director. “MAVEN’s CME sessions are immensely helpful, with applicable topics and practical advice for frontline providers no matter their level of experience.”

Long a leader in putting behavioral health care at the forefront, Cherokee Health has an integrated care model that embeds the behavioral health team directly into the primary care flow. This model helps to identify potential issues earlier, while also rapidly addressing behavioral aspects of clinical diagnoses, such as diabetes.

“I’ve had consult requests answered the same day… on a Saturday,” added Carter. “MAVEN Project’s volunteers are quick, kind and so knowledgeable. We know they’re here to support us and they’ve been so valuable in helping us to provide the best possible care. It seems like the list of available specialties keeps growing – there are so many areas we can get aid. Some of their specialties aren’t even options locally.”

Providers at Cherokee Health are attending to the most underserved in their communities and addressing health disparities that have long plagued disenfranchised populations. They appreciate the partnership so much, they’ve taken to considering MAVEN Project volunteers as their “phone a friend” resource.

“One thing that I’ve found that seems to be really empowering for patients is letting them know that I don’t have answers to everything, but that I have access to specialists to consult,” shared Kathleen Saneford, nurse practitioner at Cherokee Health. “For patients who are usually told time and time again that they don’t have access to a specialist because of their lack of health insurance, it has been really wonderful to let them know that we at least have some access. After I complete the consult, I’ve found that patients are extremely thankful and feel like they’ve been heard.”

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