Erika Pratt is passionate about the work she does at Samaritan Health Ministries.
Starting her career as a secretary for a hospital in Waco, Pratt completed her degree at Baylor. She went on to work as the director of community relations at Georgetown Hospital and, in 2011, Pratt was approached by several people about becoming the executive director at Samaritan.. Excited to give back to her community, she gladly accepted.
Hill Country News got the chance to catch up with Pratt to talk about her work at Samaritan, how she got to be where she is today and how thankful she is for having a job where she can make a difference.
Our mission, in short, is to serve the uninsured. We provide medical, dental, mental health, women’s health and pharmaceutical assistance to low-income, uninsured patients.
A lot of people ask me if we are government funded. We aren’t, so their next question is, how do you make this work? We do fundraising just like any other non-profit. We have businesses, individuals, churches and other organizations that support Samaritan financially, and primarily our funding comes from grants. We also have a lot of support from organizations like Austin Radiological Association, Clinical Pathology Laboratory (CPL) and CE Northwest who offer their services at a significant discount.
We try to maximize any other opportunities that are available so that we best utilize the dollars coming into the clinic. When Samaritan started in 1999 it was all volunteers—the doctors, nurses, pharmacists were all volunteers and so we’re really a volunteer-based, staff supplemented non-profit. Volunteers are a huge part of what we do.
The way that I think about it is, yes we are there to provide medical and dental care to the uninsured. But the other side of that is that we are a place where people can use their gifts and their skills and their talents to give back to other people.
Oh my goodness, we have helped so many more people. Last year over 1,300 people had access to the services that we provide and we had over 5,000 visits, which is significant in our community.
We’re a triple wide trailer on the grounds of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, kind of hidden in the back, and there is so much good work, meaningful work that happens in that building. For example, if you have a chronic disease and you don’t have health insurance plus you have low income, how are you going to pay for that? You have to go to the doctor, pay for the lab work and you have to pay for the medication and that’s not cheap.
To me it’s a real issue when people in these situations don’t have access to the health care that they need. Maybe they don’t even know we exist, and then what happens when they get really, really sick? They end up going to the ER, and that’s not where you need to be going to manage a chronic disease, because normally when that happens you are a lot sicker than you ever had to be.
One of the things that I think is important for us as a community to realize is that trying to prevent these diseases or catch them earlier before they get worse, helps to keep these people employed and active in the community. One way or the other we (all) pay for it.
That’s a hard question. I don’t know how to explain what it feels like when to do something that you feel like, "I can’t believe I get paid to do this." It also makes me feel grateful for what I have, for my health, and that I’m not in a situation where the types of choices that a lot of our patients have to make, and that I can help them in some small way.
I think it was the opportunities that I was given at other healthcare organizations that helped me develop the skills that I needed to be successful in an executive director role at Samaritan.
My advice would be if this: if there's something that you would like to do, take every opportunity you are given—no matter what position you are in or where it might be, take every opportunity to learn, to grow, to be challenged. Take the opportunity to add more tools to your toolbox because you never know when you might need them, whether it’s for work or your personal life in general. Just learn as much as you can and be proactive, get involved with your community, give back. The good you do for others comes back to you.