This Doctor Is Giving His Community Access to Affordable Health Care

Dr. Paul Thomas, M.D., knew he wanted to be a doctor since he was 17, when he volunteered at a clinic for people experiencing homelessness. To him, being a doctor is more than addressing medical issues — it’s about compassion and really getting to know and serve your patients.

“The further I got in my training, the less and less time I had with my patients,” he shares. “That’s when I realized I needed to do something outside of the traditional system.”

Video Transcript

Meet Paul: Community Doctor
Detroit, Michigan

Dr. Paul Thomas, speaking to a patient via phone: Hey, this is Dr. Thomas. How can I help you?

What surprises people is when they call the office and I answer the phone — I’m like, “This is Dr. Thomas. How can I help you?” And they’ll say something like, “This is the doctor?” It’s like, “Yes, it’s Dr. Paul. How can I help you?”

(Speaking to a patient) Great to see you. Thanks for coming by.

I started volunteering at a clinic for homeless folks when I was 17. And I really got to learn what it meant to be a doctor — not only just taking care of medical issues, but also compassion and listening to people’s stories. And that experience was so transformational and made me want to become a doctor. But the further and further I got in my training, the less and less time I had with my patients, and that’s when I knew that I had to do something outside of the traditional system.

(Putting lab data in lockbox) I draw the labs today, they come and pick it up around seven o’clock, and we get the results the next morning.

I started this model called Plum Health where I now have an hour with my patients if I need to; 30 minutes for followups are typical.

(Speaking to a patient via phone) For which medication?

Or if somebody just needs to call me for a quick second, I can answer my phone or follow up via text message.

(Speaking to a patient via phone) Oh, you’re welcome. Happy to help.

I really take care of my patients on their terms, and really understand them as individuals and their stories — where they’re coming from and where they want to go — and help them along that process.

Patient 1: Is it good?

Paul: Yes, your vital signs are perfect.

So we’re in southwest Detroit, and I chose this area because it’s a health professional shortage area. It was important to bring those primary care services to this community and serve it in that way.

Paul, speaking to patients: Well, great to see you both. And I just want to say thanks sincerely for the book, man.

Patient 2: Oh, great.

Paul: Another great thing about being a doc in this model is that I’ve actually developed this community of people that I care about — and it’s people who live around here and people I know through other channels — but they also care about me. And it’s not something that I would expect, but it’s just been really nice being kind of like the community doctor.

So I believe that healthcare should be affordable and accessible for everyone. In Detroit right now, there’s a lot of gentrification going on and a lot of rents are rising, so making sure that my membership model is affordable for everyone in the community is really important for me. So I’m not like a gentrifying force, but a force where people can get the medical care that will allow them to live and thrive in their own neighborhood. The system that I’m working in — this direct primary care model — it’s not perfect, but it’s much closer to the truth.

Paul, speaking a patient: Good to see you, dude.

And the truth being affordable healthcare for people in this community.

The frame of mind that I have it’s like, anything is possible. And anything is possible when you put in the effort and the dedication, and you have the vision, and you have the right group of people who surround you on that journey.

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