Fellow for Life Dr. Brian R. Forrest, MD (North Carolina, 1995-96) recalls the moment he knew he had realized his dream of making high quality health care available to everyone. It was the day the physician looked out into the waiting room at Access Healthcare, the primary care practice he founded a dozen years ago in Apex, NC, and saw a homeless man seated beside a multimillionaire.
“When asked about why they came to our office, the homeless man said because it was the only place he could afford, since he did not qualify for Medicaid and that he would not get any care if our office did not exist,” says Forrest. “The millionaire said that it had nothing to do with our lower costs; he simply could not pay any physician any amount and get the quality of care that he received at our office where he lived.”
Forrest is a pioneer in direct-pay primary care, and designed his clinic model to make quality healthcare accessible for uninsured patients. Practicing outside the managed care system allows him to keep overhead costs low, a savings transferred to his patients. And, free from the pressure of the managed care system to treat a high volume of patients, Forrest devotes one to two hours for each office visit, further enhancing the patient experience.
Forrest’s practice model has received national attention, and he is credited with helping hundreds of primary care physicians create their own direct primary care model. He was recently named one of Triangle Business Journal’s “40 under 40,” serves as board chair of the N.C. Academy of Family Physicians, and is an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Forrest says his Fellowship strongly influenced his career path and his approach to health care delivery. He completed his service project while attending medical school at UNC-Chapel Hill. His project focused on helping underserved populations in neighboring Wake County access care. He evaluated existing resources and programs, identified barriers to access to care and then created educational materials with appropriate language and comprehension level to help patients overcome the obstacles making it hard for them to get health care. He also worked in the local clinics and conducted home visits to provide an additional level of health outreach.
“My Schweitzer experience further developed my passion for improving healthcare for those that have limited access, and I believe was critical to my development as a physician,” he says.