Storefront health clinics, patient engagement, and community outreach are all touted as great new innovations in healthcare. Well, today we found a great example that includes all three and was established over 3 decades ago yet continues to engage patients today. And it takes place somewhere you might not expect: a shoe store.
Over 30 years ago Dr. William Warnekros, a podiatrist from Seattle, approached running store Super Jock N Jill founder Laurel James with the idea that he have “office hours” in the store every Thursday night where he would answer questions and do screenings. Dr. Warnekros believed that by doing this he could provide a community service, practice preventative medicine, and also create referrals to his clinic. At the time, running had not gained the popularity it has now, so there was limited information for runners on how to prevent injury.
The relationship between the podatrist and the store proved to be symbiotic, where staff became more educated in biomechanics from Dr. Warnekros and he learned about the different types of running shoes on the market. Together, they were practicing preventative medicine by making sure runners received the best advice and the right shoe for their style. Dr. Warnekros recalls that at the time the most common injuries he saw through the store were plantar facitis, achilles issues, tendonitis, ingrown toenails, stress fractures.
In addition to these “Medical Nights” at the store, Dr. Warnekros also visited community centers every Saturday to lecture on preventing running and athletic injuries. When I asked Dr. Warnekros why he did all this, he said that “outreach and community service helped me generate the type of patients I wanted to see, rather than relying only on referrals.” Sometimes we forget how simple community engagement can be, and while social media enables us to reach the world, often the best way to reach the community is face-to-face.
Since its inception, the Medical Nights program has proven so popular it’s been expanded to two nights per week, and features podiatrists, sports medicine doctors, physical therapists, and massage practionners from over 25 local clinics on a rotating schedule.
On the night I attended, Rim Veitas, a physical therapist from the University of Washington’s Roosevelt Exercise Training Center Clinic was the attending healthcare professional. He had a treatment table set up, conveniently near Super Jock n Jill’s selection of injury aids.
I was surprised to see that Rim spent between 15 and 20 minutes with each client. When I asked him about it, he said that he did it because he loved treating people. (Sadly, he said he especially loved treating people when he didn’t have to fill out all the insurance or Medicare paperwork after.) Rim wasn’t sure that the University of Washington received a lot of new clients from participating in the Medical Night program, so for him it really was a labor of love and community outreach. I suspect that other clinics that might not be as well-known as the University of Washington see a lot of referrals from this program, and that for them it’s both goodwill and good business, just like Dr. Warnekros’ original intention.
In addition to interviewing Dr. Warnekros, Rim, and the Super Jock N Jill staff about the Medical Nights program, I decided to participate. I have tight hamstrings. I come by them naturally as a short person, and running tightens them further. I thought that might be the reason that after longer runs I had a clicking in my achilles. Rim did a few assessments, and pointed out that I had unusually tight ankle joints. He gave me some exercises and said if I did them, I could become a faster runner. (I assume they will also improve my Downward Dog.) I’ll try it!
If you’re in Seattle and want to know more about your running style or if you’ve been struggling with an injury, definitely stop by Super Jock N Jill Medical Nights. You might get some tips or establish a long-term relationship with a new healthcare provider. If you’re not in Seattle, take a look for events in your area or maybe start one yourself!