Note from the CEO, Kelly Huntsman

PHC Values: Our Foundation

Kelly HuntsmanAs CEO of PHC, it is my responsibility to build and foster a culture that supports our core iCARE values of integrity, compassion, access, respect and excellence.

Recently, with the powerful storms that hit Marshalltown on Thursday, July 19, we saw those values evidenced as staff, along with community members, responded to the devastation from the tornado. Our medical and dental clinics sustained only minor damage, but like most of the community, we lost power. We deployed our mobile unit from Des Moines on Friday, providing access to medical services until we were able to reopen the clinics on Monday. While there were no physical injuries to staff or patients at the clinics, several of our staff experienced devastating loss or damage to their personal property. A number of PHC patients and staff have been impacted.  For more information on how you can support PHC Disaster Relief, please see the details further on in this newsletter.

I am grateful and proud of the professional and compassionate manner in which our staff responded; executing the emergency plan, and maintaining safety for patients and staff during the storm. I have been touched by the actions of staff in the aftermath of the storm. The caring and compassionate way they supported each other as they helped with clean up, provided donations of food and clothing, and offered hugs and kind words for their co-workers who were in need, are wonderful examples of our values in action.

It’s with these values in mind, that as we kick off our new fiscal year, we are excited about the opportunity for a “new year, fresh-start”. It’s a time to revisit and reinforce the foundation of what makes PHC strong. These values are the starting point and base for our strategic plan and inform the actions we take every day.

A few examples of how we have supported PHC values in the last year include:

  • Investing in a training director to direct and standardize training for our clinical staff (Excellence)
  • New and innovative approaches to sharing results of clinical performance measures with staff, to highlight successes but also to push for improvement where needed (Excellence)
  • Expanding clinic hours to provide more access to patients who have difficulty making it to appointments from 9-5 (Access)
  • Utilizing technology like Project ECHO to educate and assist our primary care providers with difficult cases relating to behavioral health and substance abuse services (Compassion, Access and Respect)

In this newsletter, you’ll learn more about PHC’s use of Project ECHO and the impact it is making in our state and beyond, in an article submitted by our training department. You will see a link to an article published in the New York Times on June 23, featuring our own Dr. Nicole Gastala and her team at the Marshalltown Medical Clinic. It’s an in depth look at PHC’s Medicated Assisted Treatment program, an evidence based approach that is making an impact on the opioid health crisis facing some of our patients. We’re very proud of the work they are doing and it points to our values of access, compassion and respect.

We’re also excited to be hosting our first ever “PHC Community Night” in celebration of National Health Center Week on Wednesday, August 15 at our East Side Clinic Campus. This fun, free and family friendly event will take place from 5:00 – 7:00pm at 3509 E. 29th Street in Des Moines. Patients, staff and friends of PHC welcome! This effort to celebrate our work, staff and most importantly, our patients, is an opportunity to put all of our values to work by engaging with our community. I hope to see you there!

As always, we are grateful for your continued support of PHC which helps us to provide programs and services that our patients and communities need.

Screengrab from New York article.

East Side Community Night


Free refreshments.

Bounce house and fun activities for the kids!

Learn about PHC programs and services and learn about other community resources!

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 15, 2018 | 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Innovation in Action

PHC Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Bery Engebretsen recognizes that the method of providing healthcare in this country is backward, with most of our time and money being spent fixing health problems after they occur. In an effort to move the focus upstream to promote health and wellness in our community, PHC is creating a Wellness Center.

The Wellness Center will have three components:

  1. Education Center
  2. Therapeutic Garden
  3. Community Involvement

Education Center

PHC owns a small building and adjacent land near our East Side clinic. We were able to remodel the building through a Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) grant to create an education center. The education center has a kitchen with a large island that will accommodate a modest size group, a living room area with a small seating area, and a private room for wellness exams. This building will host activities that include cooking classes, diabetes group visits, and support groups. Annual Wellness Visits will be scheduled at the education center and provided by a primary care provider. A community health worker and a behavioral health consultant will also staff the Wellness Center allowing for warm handoffs for patients who need extra support to address mental health needs and/or social determinants of health challenges. Nurse Care Managers are available remotely to assist patients as needed.

Therapeutic Garden

The therapeutic garden will include raised beds, edible landscaping, a walking path, and areas to sit and enjoy nature. The garden will be open to the community and the Des Moines Area Religious Council’s (DMARC) mobile food pantry will be scheduled to operate from the parking lot. Dr. Engebretsen envisions inviting the community in for cooking classes which would include taking couple of laps around the garden walking path to gather some healthy food or herbs to use in the recipe. He will also initiate a ‘Walk with a Doc’ program which would offer the community an opportunity for health education and exercise. (Click here to see photos of the garden)

Community Involvement

Lastly, PHC continues to nourish the close ties that it has with the community and is partnering with neighborhood associations, community organizations, and key political groups. Through this partnership they will plan and organize a community advisory council to help assure that the Wellness Center meets the community needs. Dr. Engebretsen emphasizes the desire to avoid spending time and money duplicating services that already exist. For example, PHC considered building a large community garden but realized that other community gardens were present in the area and the DMARC food pantry could provide a greater quantity of healthy foods more economically.

Program Actualization

Funding for a program like this is always a challenge. PHC has utilized grants in the planning stages of this initiative. Reimbursement from billable preventative services such as Annual Wellness Visits, Chronic Care Management, Advance Care Planning, and Behavioral Health Integration services will help continue to keep the program going.

PHC Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Bery Engebretsen

If you are interested in supporting the therapeutic garden or any of our programs, click on the button to make an online donation.

(Adapted from: Compass PTN – Innovation in Action Newsletter. Wellness Success Story, Primary Health Care, Des Moines, July 15, 2018)


echoProject ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) was created in 2003 by Dr. Sanjeev Arora, a liver specialist, at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Dr. Sanjeev utilized low cost easy to use video conferencing technology to connect with primary care providers throughout rural New Mexico to equip them with his expertise in treating Hepatitis C. Prior to Dr. Sanjeev creating the ECHO mentoring platform, many Hepatitis C patients throughout his state were going untreated because of lack of local access to this knowledge.

By providing free accessible specialty knowledge to front-line clinical providers, Dr. Sanjeev and the ECHO institute have bridged the gap between specialty and primary care. Today the “ECHO movement” has spread worldwide with 130 ECHO hubs within 23 countries. Project ECHO has addressed complex conditions such as HIV, substance use disorders, diabetes, obesity, chronic pain, autism, endocrinology and more.

ECHO participants consist of a hub and spokes, connected together through the video conferencing platform Zoom.The hub is a team of subject matter experts who serve as mentors and colleagues to participating primary care clinicians, the ECHO spokes.

The framework of an individual ECHO session comprises of a brief lecture given by one of the hub team members on an aspect of the overall ECHO topic . Following this, a participating spoke clinician will present a case (with no PHI) involving a recent patient seeking help within the ECHO topic. Collaborative discussion takes place between all participants to further assess the patient. Each participating spoke member, as well as the hub panel, have the opportunity to not only ask additional questions but also provide recommendations to the presenting clinician based on their own experiences and knowledge.

In 2017, PHC became an ECHO hub by agreeing to comply with the ECHO institutes guidelines for enacting ECHO programs. At that time, several PHC administrators attended a 3 day immersion training program at the ECHO institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

As of today, PHC has created and implemented two ECHOs. The first that was launched in late 2017, focused on behavioral health. The PHC BH ECHO consisted of 10 ECHO sessions taking place twice a month for an hour and 20 minutes. PHC worked with staff from Broadlawns Medical Center and Drake University who contributed psychiatric and pharmaceutical expertise as part of the BH ECHO hub team.

In April of 2018 PHC partnered with the Iowa Primary Care Association and the Iowa Department of Health to start a Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) ECHO. The MAT ECHO utilized PHC’s Dr. Gastala, Andrea Storjohann, Dr. Engebretsen, Dr. Swinton and Dr. Bollinger as the HUB team. The PHC team provides MAT guidelines and protocols to organizations throughout the state who are in the early stages of developing their own MAT program within their community.

If there is a subject matter that you or your PHC colleagues could benefit from by participating in an ECHO program, please contact PHC’s ECHO coordinator Joah Hogan (


On Saturday, July 21, 2018, a few of our staff (and their families) volunteered to help with planting the therapeutic garden at our East Side Campus. The wild flowers were provided by People for Pollinators program at Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge, and with help from Abundant Design landscaping.

Primary Health Care, Inc. | Marketing Department
1200 University Avenue, #200 | Des Moines, IA 50265

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