Whitman-Walker Health expands primary, adolescent, senior and dental care in Southeast DC

Most people know that Whitman-Walker offers care for the LGBTQ community and HIV prevention and treatment. But Whitman-Walker also provides primary care, care for adolescents and seniors and dental care.

Dr. Stephen Abbott, medical site director of the new Max Robinson Center, and Dr. Terrance Weeden, a staff adolescent medicine physician at the new care facility in Washington, D.C.’s Ward 8, shared details about these expanded services with WTOP for our 2024 Get on Top of Your Health series.

Making primary care more accessible in Southeast DC

As a federally-qualified health care provider, Whitman-Walker is committed to community health and wellness, Abbott said.

Primary care services at Max Robinson include routine screenings for diabetes, hypertension, depression, substance use disorders and sexually transmitted infections. “Whether you’re HIV-positive or HIV-negative, we have treatment and prevention programs. Whether you’re LGBTQ-identified or not, we have a wide variety of patients that come to us for care under the umbrella of primary care,” Abbott said.

Whitman-Walker doctors are prepared to take care of diabetes, high blood pressure, mental health and host of routine screenings too, including mammograms, colonoscopies and immunizations for flu and COVID-19.

Helping deliver consistent health care for seniors

Local residents are living longer in most parts of the city because of early screenings and treatments. But that is not the case in wards 7 or 8, where the mortality rate is higher and life expectancy is lower, Abbott said.

That’s where Whitman-Walker senior care comes in. “Part of that is due to the fact that folks aren’t getting screened or getting their diabetes or blood pressure under control,” he explained.

Expanded programs at the Max Robinson Center also focus on LGBTQ seniors and what it’s like to age in that community, as well as behavioral health and support groups for older residents who may feel isolated from family, friends or the community.

Providing dental services for all ages

The center, which opened in the early fall of 2023, provides routine dental cleanings as well as more advanced services.

“We have a beautiful eight-room suite and three dentists,” Abbott said. “They will do everything from routine prophylactic care to extractions and fillings.”

There are also orthodontic services that can provide clear braces, such as Invisalign, for teeth straightening.

Offering full spectrum of adolescent care

Whitman-Walker recently lowered the age of patients who can be treated for primary care and mental health care at Max Robinson and their site in Northwest D.C. to 10 years old and dental patients to age 13.

“We really want to capture that age because a lot of healthy and unhealthy habits start at that age,” Weeden said. “It’s a welcoming environment. Our motto at Whitman-Walker is ‘We see you.’ And we see youth, as soon as they walk through our clinic doors, they feel seen and heard. It’s difficult being a teenager and a young adult nowadays because they’re exposed to so much. It’s important for them to feel seen, feel heard and feel validated.”

Care for adolescents includes services from psychiatrists and behavioral health specialists. Max Robinson also provides adolescents and young adults with immunizations for COVID-19, flu, human papillomavirus (HPV) and other diseases; access to birth control; testing for sexually transmitted infections; and any missed childhood vaccines.

Expanding access to medically underserved community

Half of all Black residents in Washington lack easy access to medical care, according to a recent report in the Washington Post, and Black residents live an average of 16 fewer years than residents of Ward 3. Whitman-Walker is working to change that.

“We’ve been in wards 7 and 8 since 1993,” Abbott said. “With the expansion of our new clinic, we’re going to be able to service 10,000 more people than we were seeing previously. You should not have to travel across wards to get healthcare.”

Max Robinson also soon plans to offer same-day services to help patients avoid having to go to emergency room and urgent care facilities.

Building trust with patients

Being listened to and respected is a top priority at Whitman-Walker, and it’s the reason Abbott said that he is also a patient there. “You’re going to get quality care. You’re going to be listened to and respected. We have providers who live in the neighborhood. We have many who are queer-identified, running the age gamut,” he said.

“All of us strive, at every level in the clinic, to actually slow down and listen. We are going to provide care with compassion that I don’t think you get elsewhere,” Abbott added. “You’re going to get quality care and you’re going to be listened to and respected. And you’ll be able to be yourself in ways never experienced in other clinics.”

It’s the reason that Weeden intentionally chose to move across the country in late 2023 to work at Max Robinson. “I was very intentional about where I wanted to work,” Weeden added. “Serving the community that I identify with, that looks like me and that identify as me. Whitman-Walker is a special place.”

For more information, visit Whitman-Walker.org, and discover additional tips and tactics to get on top of your health on WTOP.

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