“Hamilton overall story 01” by Mark Rummel
Some people call it the “best-kept medical secret” in Flint.
Every day of every week year-round, doctors from the renowned Michigan Medicine program at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor treat hundreds of Flint area residents, right here in Flint.
The Michigan Medicine professionals provide specialty services at Hamilton Community Health Network.
The Michigan Medicine – Hamilton partnership has existed more than seven years since beginning in 2013, explains Dr. Michael Giacalone Jr., MD, who wears two hats — as a U-M specialist and as Hamilton’s Chief Medical Officer.
In the past, critical patients were taken by ambulance to Ann Arbor for advanced treatment, Dr. Giacalone explains, when specialized care wasn’t available in Flint.
With Flint as his inspiration, he spearheaded the beginnings of the U-M Survival Flight Program, whose helicopters are now the standard of rapid medical transportation worldwide. Better and faster care in Flint and other places was required, Dr. Giacalone says. “We began asking ourselves, ‘Can we do this?’ We immediately agreed that we must do this, right here in Flint.”
Medical attention by the U-M and Michigan Medicine staff soon expanded far beyond helicopter flights. “The U-M is a public health resource for Michigan that offers world-class care, even outside Ann Arbor,” Dr. Giacalone says. He was the leader in convincing his fellow U-M department heads to bring more types of specialty treatment to the Flint Area, expanding quality local care.
“This is one of the best-kept secrets here,” he says of the Hamilton and U-M connection. “We want to make this better known. Michigan Medicine has an obligation to serve people, especially those in under-served areas. And it has grown widely from there.”
For Flint area women, gynecology care from Michigan Medicine professionals is available, through Hamilton HCN. Plus, opioid / medically-assisted treatment services bring quality care to Mid-Michigan, as Dr. Erica Marsh, Dr. Margaret Punch and Dr. Lindsay Admon treat Hamilton patients at the Main Clinic monthly.
“Embracing state-wide medical coverage means we can have partners like Hamilton,” Dr. Giacalone says. And he proudly brings U-M department heads to Flint to consult and oversee treatment of all kinds of patients. “I have a photo of one of our Flint meetings that had more department chairmen attending than we see at many meetings in Ann Arbor,” he says, with a laugh.
Flint is Dr. Giacalone’s hometown, he proudly explains. After attending Pierce Elementary and Central High School here, he went to Ann Arbor to study pre-medicine and then returned as a college student when U-M Flint began offering classes. “I lived probably a dozen blocks from where Hamilton’s Administrative Offices are today,” he says.
After graduation and job assignments around the globe and full-time work in Ann Arbor, Dr. Giacalone stays here because he sees “the potential we have for individuals. I saw everything leaving and knew there was a need in Flint. I felt it was a tremendous calling.” While he thought he might later return to the faculty in Ann Arbor, he has instead remained here. “As of Jan. 30, it will be 14 years that I’ve been here,” he says proudly of his Flint connections.
As Dr. Giacalone oversees the Hamilton Medical Staff, he serves with Hamilton HCN Chief Executive Officer Clarence Pierce MS, who works to provide excellent management in all other care areas such as finance, clinics, support staff and more.
CEO Pierce has been leading the Hamilton team for 13 years. He is the public face of the Health Care Network in messages, advertising and types of meetings. Hamilton’s position as a FQHC — Federally Qualified Health Center — for Mid-Michigan means “Our doors are always open. We are here to serve our entire community,” Mr. Pierce says, regardless of income and ability to pay.
“Some of our patients haven’t seen a doctor in years,” Mr. Pierce explains. “They need excellent treatment. But our message is the same: we will care for you.”
Mr. Pierce is proud of Hamilton’s work to bring more specialty clinics to Flint since many local residents often have difficulty getting to Ann Arbor for such specialized care. There is always a need in Flint, where about 70% of residents receive Medicaid (joint federal and state funded,) 15% are covered through Medicare (federally funded,) about 12% have commercial insurance and about 3% get other aid, research shows.
Certainly, it’s no secret — everyone, everywhere deserves good medical care. Every day, the need is great, and Flint’s connection to Michigan Medicine’s world-class care is through the Hamilton Health Care Network. And this good news deserves to be told.