Disease is not something personal and special, but only a manifestation of life under modified conditions, operating according to the same laws as apply to the living body at all times, from the first moment until death. ~Rudolf Virchow
Like Virchow, Dr. Peter Hossler, assistant professor of urban studies at Rhodes College, ascribes to the notion that treatment of a person’s health also should include observations of social conditions—poverty, housing, education, etc.—that impact health.
In 2018, Hossler became program director of the Wellness and Stress Clinic of Memphis, which has a mission of providing “uninsured and underinsured residents with the resources they need to improve their health and reach their economic and healing goals.”
Founded by Bishop William Young and his wife, Pastor Diane Young, with the help of Hossler and David Stern, MD, the clinic is housed on the grounds of the Healing Center Baptist Church located at 3885 Tchulahoma Road. Faculty and students from Rhodes, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, and The University of Memphis staff the clinic.
From its beginnings, the Wellness and Stress Clinic of Memphis has offered a wealth of primary care, mental and behavioral health services, legal services, and health lifestyle classes. Physicians provide general medical exams, write prescriptions, and advise on diabetes and hypertension management, and there are health educators and trainers to provide group classes on nutrition and exercise.
“Healthy cooking is our primary education program,” says Hossler.
Also on hand at the clinic are social workers to connect individuals to social services, employment, and education; lawyers to provide legal advice; and counselors to assess and support emotional fitness and stress reduction skills. And all this is free of charge.
Newer services include emergency food and COVID-19 vaccinations and COVID testing.
“We opened a drive-thru testing site in May of 2020, and for 18 months we operated one of the only evening drive-thru community testing sites in the county,” says Hossler. “We served all of Memphis in this capacity and pivoted to vaccination once those became available.”
At the Wellness and Stress Clinic of Memphis, Rhodes students and alumni help to book appointments, work with individual clients as the progress through the clinic services, disinfect exam rooms, and shadow providers. They also take patients’ medical histories, file patient paperwork, and assist with grant reporting.
Mary La, a Rhodes senior with a major in chemistry and minor in health equity and religious studies, is one of the clinic volunteers. “I would like to go to medical school to be a family doctor one day,” she says. “I have gotten to see the inner workings of a clinic, involving both the joys and struggles of trying to provide health care services in a low-resource environment. I observed the hard work that goes into keeping the clinic running for the patients who need health care services the most. Every week that I come in, I can see the improvements and changes to the clinic to try to make the system of running the clinic smoother and better for patients. It is the teamwork and personal connections within the clinic that makes volunteering there memorable and the best experience that I’ve had.”
At Rhodes, Hossler teaches a course on health care policy and nonprofits, and the successes and challenges of the Wellness and Stress Clinic of Memphis are intricately woven into both courses. He also has a record of successful grant applications in the field of medical education and health care safety and oversees grant writing initiatives at the clinic, working with community partners to ensure it has the resources necessary to support clients in their journey towards a healthier and more enriched life.