Interview with Springboard September, 2009

Published on Springboard for the Arts blog September 14, 2009

Get To Know Dr. Sam

Dr. Samuel Willis, board-certified family medicine physician and visual artist, opened a new medical practice 2 weeks ago in the NE Minneapolis Arts District. With the national healthcare debate descending into an angry mess, it gives us great hope that there are people like Dr. Sam that are willing to step up and try to figure out workable, grassroots solutions for their community.

Many of you provided him with crucial feedback needed to design his medical practice, but few have had the opportunity to get to know Dr. Sam like we have. Now, it’s our pleasure to better acquaint you with Dr. Sam, his new practice and his connection to the arts:

NH: Tell us about yourself. What is your background in art and medicine?

Doctor Sam: As a physician I trained at Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, Pennsylvania after which I completed my residency in Family Medicine at Crozer Keystone Family Medical Residency in Delaware County, the westernmost county in the city of Philadelphia. Throughout my medical education and work as a physician I have kept myself involved in the arts – as a medical student I was a violinist with the Central Pennsylvania Symphony for three of the four years that I was there. As a resident, I attended classes during my second and third year at the Fleisher Institute, a wonderful resource for arts education in Philadelphia. Here in Minneapolis I continue to take continuing education classes at MCAD and other arts education centers in the area. My most recent work has been oil painting and drawing based largely upon figure studies.

NH: How did you first connect to Springboard for the Arts?

Doctor Sam: When I moved to Minneapolis in 2007 I set out to continue to combine art and medicine in a meaningful way. This led to applying for and receiving a grant from a community foundation to support the installation of an art gallery at the Park Nicollet Clinic on Blaisdell Avenue in Minneapolis. I approached Springboard for guidance on how to shape this endeavor and have found a wonderful resource for the arts in this organization. Since that connection, I have been able to collaborate with Springboard in a number of ways including the State of the Arts meeting at Intermedia Arts. I look forward to further opportunities to work with these great organizations.

NH: What inspired you to create this medical practice?

Doctor Sam: I learned in my meetings with you and Laura that there is a need for healthcare for a group of people who cannot afford quality health insurance, and who do not qualify for government aid. I also wanted to change the way I was practicing medicine so that I could feel more closely connected to the patients that were coming to see me.

NH: What was the process of creating this medical practice? Whose counsel did you seek?

Doctor Sam: I have been very fortunate to have met a number of very supportive individuals who have helped me develop this practice model. Some of you may recall taking a survey regarding assessing the healthcare needs of artists. The results of this survey along with numerous conversations with artists related to Springboard have been tremendously helpful in designing this practice. The list of those that have given input is too large to complete in this setting, but it includes doctors practicing a similar model in Seattle, a variety of arts organizations, business organizations, and a competent team of accountants and legal consultants. I also continue to seek the input of my patients and potential future patients in designing and modifying this practice.

NH: How does your medical practice differ from others? What is a retainer model?

Doctor Sam: This membership model has been described in a variety of ways, including a retainer model. This model addresses one important, fundamental, and simple concept in the practice of medicine: I believe that there is value to having a doctor just a phone call or e-mail away, one who has the time to communicate with you even if you are not sitting in the office, and one who is able to help coordinate your care with other care providers. The membership fee covers the overhead of running an office; while the visit fee covers the costs related to the doctor’s examination. Both are competitively priced as low as is feasible. The vision for this office is that no matter how successful we become, we will always maintain our core goal to provide individualized care.

NH: What makes your practice “Artist Friendly”?

Doctor Sam: This is a very good question. It is ultimately up to my patients to decide if it is really artist friendly; however, I believe the answer will be that it is. I have built this practice very much around the needs, interests, and skills of the local arts community, and have responded to the lack of affordable care for those without health insurance by addressing costs associated with x-rays, lab tests, and doctor visits. I also believe that as a doctor and an artist my practice style and open-minded nature are particularly well suited to care for the broad life experiences that make up our arts community. Wherever possible I would like to have the voice of the community represented in this space and our programming. We are lucky to have a vibrant arts community in Minneapolis and I hope to support and grow this community to something even better than what it already is.

NH: What vision do you have for your practice? Tell us about your space in the Northeast Minneapolis Arts District.

Doctor Sam: I see this as an incubator space for the arts and medicine. It is designed to function at the same time as an art gallery and health center. We are currently planning for between four and six shows a year in the gallery and have already held a community yoga event in our office. I continue to design programming around the needs, interests, and skills of our community and look forward to us all learning how art and medicine inform one another when placed in such close vicinity.

NH: If people have questions, how can they contact you?

Doctor Sam: I would welcome questions, comments, insights, and inquiries by e-mail []  Thank you, Nikki, for taking the time to ask these great questions.

Thank you, Dr. Sam!



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