The San Diego Health & Faith Alliance grew out of the creative energy of several individuals who found that they shared a common vision - the provision of health and mental health services free of charge to people who had no access to them, and to do so while teaching the future professionals of our community.
Dr. Margaret McCahill, is a family physician and psychiatrist faculty member at UCSD School of Medicine, the only medical school in the San Diego area. In 1992, she started volunteering a day or two a month working in St. Vincent de Paul Village's free clinic that cares for the medically underserved and homeless communities of San Diego. In 1994, Dr. McCahill started taking resident physicians-in-training to work with her as a volunteer at the free clinic. This effort grew and by 1999, Dr. McCahill worked at the St. Vincent de Paul Village Medical Clinic full time, and directed a residency-training program for physicians that had its home-base at that clinic (www.combinedresidency.org). The tremendous benefits of providing care to those who most need it, utilizing the energy and enthusiasm of those in training - a concept called "service-learning" - was solidified. In her over fifteen years of experience in caring for those in San Diego with no health care insurance, Dr. McCahill noticed that many of the patients who came to the clinic, and who had become homeless for the first time in their lives, were increasingly 55 years of age and older. She further noted that many of the "seniors" had lost their sustaining income and become homeless because they had developed an insidious health care need (e.g., diabetes, arthritis, lung disease, depression, cognitive impairment) and they no access to health care early in the course of their illness - middle-American working people and had become homeless because of lack of access to health care!
Dr. Margaret Stevenson, is Chair Emerita and Professor Emerita at Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU) Department of Nursing (www.ptloma.edu/nursing). Point Loma Nazarene University is the official University of the Southwest Educational Region of the Church of the Nazarene, providing a liberal arts education in the Wesleyan tradition. In 1999, Dr. Stevenson and Dr. Dottie Crummy, Chair of the Department of Nursing, and other Nursing faculty started teaching nursing students from PLNU in the context of service when they founded the "Wellness Center" (also known as the Health Promotion Center) at the Church of the Nazarene in the Mid-City area of San Diego. The student nurses provided the valuable services of screening for various health matters (diabetes, cholesterol, blood pressure screening), and they provided health education and essential support to people who are working to manage chronic health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure and many other illnesses. They also provided health care advocacy and assistance with referral for those who had needs and were having difficulty obtaining access to the health care that they needed. The work of the student nurses and a team of faculty members from PLNU provided a wonderful resource to the patients who utilized the Wellness Center at the Church of the Nazarene. The Administrative Pastor of the Church, the Rev. Deron Matson, has provided essential support and encouragement to enable the nursing team to provide care for those with no other access to care. The student nurses enjoy learning their skills all while serving those who need them most. This continues to be a model "service-learning" project.
Dr. Todd Edwards is the Director of the Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) Program at the University of San Diego (USD) (www.sandiego.edu). The University of San Diego is a Roman Catholic institution that welcomes and respects those whose lives are formed by different traditions, as it fulfills its commitment to the pursuit of truth, academic excellence, and advancement of knowledge in liberal arts and professional programs. Dr. Edwards and his faculty colleagues in the MFT program at USD have a long history of collaborative practice with other disciplines in the field of counseling and mental health care. MFT trainees from USD have done their required clinical hours for training in many of San Diego's outstanding clinical services programs, including Catholic Charities, Episcopal Community Services, St. Vincent de Paul Village, the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Hospital, and many other agencies that serve those who need services, but may have limited ability to pay for them. Now, under the direction of Dr. Edwards and his faculty colleagues, MFT trainees from USD will be working as members of a multi-disciplinary team, and indeed a multi-university, multi-disciplinary team, to provide service to those who cannot pay for this needed care, and they will do so while fulfilling their training hours requirements - another "service-learning" program.
On August 22, 2002, Drs. McCahill and Edwards went with the Vice President of Father Joe's Villages, Mr. Mathew Packard, to visit the QueensCare Health & Faith Partnership in Los Angeles (www.QueensCare.org). Inspired by what they learned, they came back to San Diego to meet with Father Joe Carroll, President of St. Vincent de Paul Village, Dr. Margaret Stevenson, Dr. Dottie Crummy and the faculty of the PLNU School of Nursing. A series of community meetings were held, attended by many San Diego area clergy, lay persons who participate in health ministry and parish nursing, agencies that support the collaboration between the faith community and professional training programs, (non-faith-based) community service agencies that will be excellent members in a collaborative of this nature, and faculty from all three universities. Thus those separately developed service-learning projects in medicine, nursing and marriage and family therapy from three different universities came together in a new collaboration, with congregations, faith-based organizations, and community service agencies, and this is called the San Diego Health & Faith Alliance.