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Published on March 15, 2021

A significant endowment supports our commitment to meet patients where they are

Dr. Wright and nurse

When community is your calling

At the Community Health & Wellness Center, Juan Depaz listens closely to Dr. Patrick Wright.  The two discuss a customized treatment plan using a video remote interpreting service to ensure that no communication is lost between the doctor and his Spanish-speaking patient.

But that’s not all that’s unique about what’s going on here. Proximity and affordability are paramount.

Cone Health strategically positioned this community clinic at 201 East Wendover Ave., along with two other sites. The idea? All clinics should be accessible to residents who face a variety of barriers to good health: poverty, lack of insurance and transportation, even homelessness.

“This work is a game changer,” Wright says. With his leadership, Cone Health’s Congregational Nurse Program partnered with Greensboro Urban Ministry to open an additional location at the Weaver House Shelter. “I’ve never been able to connect better with my faith walk than since I began delivering care in these clinics.”

Everything in his 33-year career has led him here. His time as medical director for the Congregational Nurse Program. His role as vice president of safety and quality. Certainly volunteering at the Weaver House Shelter, where Wright has been able to see firsthand why outcomes are poor for low-income patients. “So much has to do with the barriers and injustices they are facing,” he says. “I realized this was my calling, so I started learning more about health care for the homeless and what others across the country had done.”

During their long-distance phone calls, Wright shares his passion with his mother. He tells her stories about the patients he sees and the transformations they make.

“This one gentleman,” Wright says, shaking his head. “He was seizing in the lobby of the homeless shelter.” Wright got him stabilized and sent to the Emergency Department. “He had been falling off buses; everyone thought it was his alcoholism.” What they learned through further evaluation in the community care clinic was that he has chronic neurologic problems due to a cervical spine stenosis with near complete compression. “He was about to become a quadripalegic,” Wright says.

Wright got the man an appointment with an orthopedist and helped arrange for a cervical spine procedure. “We were able to get him off alcohol and treat the root cause of his pain so that he didn’t need to make repeated visits to the ED,” Wright adds.

Wright’s mother was inspired by what her son and his colleagues were doing: providing medication bridging, urgent care, foot care, diabetes management, blood pressure stabilization and much more to community members who would otherwise be in the ED or would forgo care altogether. According to Wright, mental health problems, toxic stress and the threat of homelessness drive many of their health challenges.

“My mother believes in this work,” Wright adds.

And so she created the Ruth Helen O’Bryan Wright Endowment  — one of Cone Health’s largest gifts to date. With careful planning by the Office of Philanthropy, the gift will develop a patient-assistance fund, enable  more community clinics and allow Cone Health to reach more community members where they are, not just medically but geographically and financially.

“We’ll be able to address the challenges that affect health,” Wright says. “Cone Health has very dynamic plans about ways we can access these communities and what we can do as a system to work more upstream.”

That, too, is Wright’s calling — helping to thwart health challenges before they begin. With the steady source of support from the Wright endowment, he and his colleagues can help make Cone Health a leader in this work. 

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