Page 5 - Heart of Hoag June 2014
P. 5
Dr. James Berman
Can You Keep a Secret? Or Two?
Hoag partners with Families Forward to ensure medical care for patients who might otherwise fall through the cracks.
The Community Cares program has a secret.
Well, two secrets, really, which together help account for the program’s incredible success in delivering more than $103,000 in free medical, dental and mental health care over the past four years to about 70 patients through Irvine-based Families Forward.
Secret No. 1: The program is easy for both providers to use and for patients to access, making it a truly gratifying experience for physicians who want to give back to their community but don’t have the time to take on additional paperwork or navigate government programs.
Secret No. 2: James Berman, M.D.
Dr. Berman, a former internist at Hoag Hospital who retired in 2013, has been instrumental in recruiting more than 60 physicians and mental health professionals to help Families Forward offer free medical care to low-income and homeless families in South Orange County.
By appealing to his friends and colleagues and serving on the medical advisory committee and board of directors of Families Forward, Dr. Berman has helped the non-profit turn an inspired idea into a highly successful program that engages both physicians and patients.
“Because he’s so widely respected in the community, Dr. Berman has been able to recruit a great number of providers,” says Kelly Banks, Resource Development Coordinator for Families Forward. “The generosity of the providers has been amazing.”
Dr. Berman says physicians are enticed to participate in Community Cares by the latitude they are given in determining how many pro bono patients to see, and by the fact that Families Forward takes care of all the paperwork, even connecting patients with referrals for other services.
Families Forward has been providing transitional housing, job training and food for families facing financial crisis in Irvine for 30 years. During the
recession, the group saw a dramatic increase in the need for medical, dental and mental health care for families who lost their jobs and heath insurance, says Anne Kranz, Director of Client Services.
That’s where Hoag’s Community Benefit Program came in. To date, Hoag has provided $16,910 to Families Forward, helping ensure medical care for patients who might otherwise fall through the cracks.
When Community Cares launched in 2010, it was only offered to families who were receiving housing assistance through Families Forward. But the program has grown to include referrals from other agencies. In all, 345 medical, mental health and dental appointments have taken place to date.
“The key aspect is that they are seen in a doctor’s office, not a clinic, and they are treated like any other patient,” Dr. Berman says. “They are not singled out. They want to be respected.”
The response from patients has been overwhelming.
“My doctor was so thorough, kind and extremely sensitive to my situation and made me feel right at home,” one Community Cares patient says.
“I was sitting in his chair feeling a waterfall of emotions, thinking to myself there really are so many unselfish and giving people and how lucky I am to be in this program.”
Similarly, physicians have told Families Forward how much they enjoy lending their help.
“You go into medicine to help people. It’s part of your altruistic nature; it’s why you want to practice medicine,” Dr. Berman says.
“To be able to help people get back on their feet, and move forward in their lives, gives you a great sense of satisfaction.”

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