NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — If you drive by, it’s easy to miss the new Riverside Primary Care Community Clinic at 727 25th Street in Newport News.
The clinic opened its doors in mid-February with temporary signage outside the building, which it shares with the Community Free Clinic of Newport News.
It’s within walking distance for 25-year-old Shapria Smith, who moved to the Southeast Community in 2019.
“This was closer to home and I was able to get here [by walking], so it is definitely convenient for me,” said Smith.
Nurse Practitioner Melanie Ames manages the facility and patient care with assistance from Licensed Practical Nurse Lisa Baxter.
“Many patients can actually walk to the office which is really good. They don’t have to worry so much about transportation,” said Ames.
Ames is familiar with the landscape and the people of eastern Virginia. She earned a bachelor of science in nursing from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and a master of science in nursing from Hampton University.
As the pandemic approaches a grim one-year anniversary, the clinic opened at a critical time for an underserved community. African Americans have been disproportionately sickened or killed by the novel coronavirus. Even as the vaccine rollout is underway in Virginia, statistics show minorities lag behind white people in getting the life-saving vaccine shot. Additionally, research last year revealed the pandemic contributed to a sharp increase in deaths that were not related to the novel coronavirus.
“We have seen a decline in patients coming to the office [during the pandemic] and really — they are scared,” said Ames
There’s hope the clinic will turn the tide for residents in the Southeast Community. Help is literally around the corner.
“Their diabetes, their hypertension and any type of chronic issues [can be treated]. In addition to that, I can do wellness exams, I can do pap smears, breast exams, and prostate exams,” said Ames.
With a winning “can-do” disposition, Ames also offers help for patients who are struggling with depression and substance abuse.
“I am available to write prescriptions, to make recommendations, as far as depression, anxiety, and any mental health-type issues. Just being able to start somewhere and getting help with mental health is certainly an important step. Mental health is a medical illness, and it can be treated. I just want to be a part of helping people feel good about themselves,” said Ames.
One patient at a time, Ames hopes the medical community’s will to help the people of the Southeast Community becomes infectious.
“I am hoping that by bringing the Riverside name into the community, [this arrival] can help bring other businesses into that area and [together] we’ll just help to promote health,” said Ames.
In the near future, dental services will be added and from this clinic, patients can connect with all specialties offered by Riverside Health.
To make an appointment with the clinic visit riversideonline.com/ames or call 757-316-5210.