Carla Wright, M.D.
For the last 24 years, Dr. Carla Wright, a physician at Milwaukee Health Services, has been providing health care to disadvantaged individuals living in Milwaukee’s central city. When it was founded in 1989, Milwaukee Health Services was a federally funded clinic that specialized in treating the elderly and the disabled. As the organization grew, its focus broadened. The clinic added pediatric, gynecologic, and mental health services along with an on-site pharmacy in order to treat an expanding population that needed services within their community.
In 1989, Dr. Wright’s client base was mostly African Americans on Medicare, who required general medicine, rehabilitation, cognitive, or psychiatric services. But beginning in the mid-1990’s, she started to discover a new population showing up at the clinic. “I began to observe a wave of older people that were not as independent as they once were,” she said. “These individuals habitually missed appointments, and showed signs that they were not keeping up with self-care.” For Wright,it was more difficult to treat individuals exhibiting signs of dementia at that point in time, because of the lack of appropriate medications.
But in 2009, Dr. Wright and Milwaukee Health Services were introduced to an opportunity that would allow them to finally provide full service to individuals with Alzheimer’s and related dementias. They received a grant from the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute that allowed them to open a community-based Memory Clinic. The clinic, which operates on Tuesday afternoons, is a collaborative effort between Dr. Wright, Teresa Skora, a nurse practitioner and clinic director, and Stephanie Houston, a family care coordinator who provides resources, education and referrals to clients in the program.
“I enjoy being a doctor and having this special time set aside to study cognition,” said Dr. Wright. “At the Memory Clinic our team conducts a physical exam, as well as memory screenings including the clock draw, depression screen and the Cognistat. As a team, we discuss the findings together, and then present them separately to the client.” The team also provides test results to the individual’s primary care physician, or refers the individual to a physician if one is needed.
Outreach into the community is also an important part of the mission at Milwaukee Health Services. Several times a year, the three women go to community and senior centers within the central city and near north side, offering free screenings for blood pressure and diabetes. They also conduct mini-memory screenings. “We go over results and recommendations for people to take to their own health care providers,” said Dr. Wright. “We uncover a whole lot of things that are surprising. And we emphasize how important it is to see your doctor. And if you don’t have a doctor, get a doctor.”
This past year, Gail Morgan, Community Outreach Coordinator at the Alzheimer’s Association has also participated in Milwaukee Health Services community outreach efforts by providing education classes and resources. It’s an effort that Morgan would like to grow. “I see a real need for providing continued education and resources on Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias,” said Morgan. “I hope to have more opportunities to work with Dr. Wright & Milwaukee Health Services in 2014.”