Dr. Scott Richards Honored with Healthcare Heroes Community Service Award

Posted by Brent Treash

For the second year in a row, The Business Journal of Tri-Cities, TN/VA has honored an Emory & Henry College School of Health Sciences employee at their annual Healthcare Hero celebration.

This year’s recipient of a community service award is the founding chair and director of the Emory & Henry College School of Health Sciences Department of Physician Assistant (PA) Studies, Scott Richards.

Richards was instrumental in creating the partnership between the School of Health Sciences and the Mel Leaman Free Clinic in Marion, Va. In 2017, the Mel Leaman Free Clinic in Marion was relocated from a strip mall to the campus of the Emory & Henry College School of Health Sciences and renamed to the Mel Leaman Free Clinic at Emory & Henry College. It went from a small, uninviting space originally established for retail to a well-equipped, attractive and modern facility in an area dedicated to healthcare.

In the process, the number of patients, who represent low-income and under-served populations across a wide swath of Southwest Virginia, and the quality and variety of healthcare service provided to them has dramatically increased.

“My entire medical career has been singularly focused on caring for the underserved as a family medicine and psychiatric PA,” Scott said. “Over my career, at every location, I have established free clinics, including no-cost medical clinics for impoverished patients, migrant workers, refugees and the homeless. Helping to establish or improve a free clinic in Smyth County was not an option for me. Given the mission of Emory & Henry College and the enthusiastic support I received from President Schrum and Dean Fincher, I knew the College was the best next step for me when in a point of transition.”

Richards worked to obtain grants that enabled the Clinic to equip new patient examination rooms. He managed the procurement process for all new medical equipment. He worked with architects and contractors to develop the renovation plans for the building that would accommodate the new Clinic. He also required all Department of PA Studies faculty members to practice at the Clinic or similar activities, which has allowed PA students to rotate through the facility precepted by their faculty and, consequently, has allowed the Clinic to see more patients.

Since the relocation, the Clinic now offers primary care and orthopedics – both offered prior to the move, in addition to new services of behavioral medicine/psychiatry care – which Richards oversees, women’s health care, physical therapy and occupational therapy, dental hygiene, restorative dentistry, and – in the very near future – telemedicine specialty clinics with UVA. The telemedicine clinics will also be open to the broader community reducing the need for the region’s patients to travel long distances to see specialists.

His influence has helped the School of Health Sciences in Marion become one of the only programs in the country that incorporates students who follow their professors in clinical practice – caring for actual patients – from the very first week of their start.

Richards came to Emory & Henry with a passion for connecting health science education to service to the community. While a PA student at Hahnemann University, he was a member of the Public Health Service. Since PA school he has been in the National Health Service Corps, and since relocating to the area has been a volunteer with the Southwest Virginia Medical Reserve Corps.

He is an active member of numerous boards, serving, in addition to the Mel Leaman Free Clinic for which he serves as both a volunteer board member and the organizational and clinical consultant, the Smyth County Community Hospital, the Smyth County Development Foundation. He also serves on the advisory board for the Academy of Family Practice PAs and NPs, and is an editorial board member for Clinician Reviews, a national professional journal for primary care PAs and NPs. He also serves on the following committees: Ballad Health Community Benefit and Population Health Committee, the Virginia Association for Free and Charitable Clinics Membership Standards Work Group, and the Mel Leaman Free Clinic Medical Advisory Committee.

“For me, the intention of life is service and reducing the suffering of others,” Scott said. “This naturally transfers over to both my clinical practice and work at Emory & Henry.”

Recipients of the Healthcare Heroes award were judged on the impact on the community, the difficulty of their accomplishment, innovation of their work, their leadership qualities and the quality of the nominee’s documentation.

  • Scott Richards was honored with the Healthcare Hero award.
    Scott Richards was honored with the Healthcare Hero award.

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