Juanita Baranowski, PA-C’96, her colleague Alan Berg, D.O., and their staff provide care according to their clinic’s moniker.
Juanita Garcia Baranowski, PA-C’96, grew up proud of her family’s medical legacy. Her great-grandfather Pompilio Martinez Navarette performed the first open heart surgery in Colombia in 1910. Her grandfather Jorge Cerón Bernal also was an eminent doctor and surgeon there. After she moved from Bogata, Colombia, to the United States, her positive experiences with a physician assistant – a profession she previously hadn’t known about – helped seal her decision to become a health care provider.
Observing the health care that Hispanic people often received, however, affirmed the type of provider she wanted to be. As a DMU student, she worked in local free clinics and saw the importance of removing language and cultural barriers for all patients. She and her family moved to Dallas, where she worked in various clinics; the condescending and outright rude attitudes and behaviors some of her colleagues exhibited toward Hispanic patients made her angry.
“Hispanic people, especially those on Medicaid, were being treated worse than dogs going to a vet,” she says. “It was like the clinicians were treating them just to make money.”
“People who are suffering and sick need more dignity, respect and love. Our philosophy is we are here to serve them, and we’re lucky they’re coming to us.”
Baranowski talked about her experiences with her sister, Silvia Aparicio, who shared her ire. The two sisters researched areas in Dallas with a high Hispanic population and few health care services, found a building and recruited family and friends to help paint it and install cabinets. When they heard about a clinic in College Station that was closing, they drove a U-Haul there to snap up its exam tables, EKG machine and other equipment. Silvia’s husband, Eduardo, set up the clinic’s electronic medical records system. On the clinic’s first day, in April 2008, they had two patients.
“I found my sister in the corner, praying. It was really difficult,” Baranowski recalls. “She was overwhelmed. I said, ‘Don’t worry; we don’t have to do it all in one day.’ Little by little, we built up the practice.”
With Silvia as office manager; Eduardo as information technology chief; Alan Berg, D.O., and family nurse practitioner Edward Galvan as her fellow clinicians; eight medical assistants and one medical coordinator, the practice also built a reputation for the staff’s treatment approach. That led to the clinic’s name.
“I’m doing this because there’s no compassionate care for these people. We were thinking about our clinic name. I said, ‘How about we call it Compassion Care Clinic?’” Baranowski says. “Silvia was thinking exactly the same thing.”
Every staff member at the clinic speaks Spanish as well as English. Baranowski has them read Mountains Beyond Mountains, Tracy Kidder’s compelling book about Paul Farmer, M.D., a physician, anthropologist and humanitarian who’s worked to provide health care to underserved people in developing countries. On Halloween, they all wear costumes. Colleagues of Baranowski’s husband, John, often collect toys and clothes for their young patients.
It’s no wonder they have served approximately 15,000 patients.
“They come because we treat them nicely. Some come just to visit us and bring us food,” she says. “People who are suffering and sick need more dignity, respect and love. Our philosophy is we are here to serve them, and we’re lucky they’re coming to us.”