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eDocTalk article

Jeanne Savage, M.D., champions the underserved

September 2017

Jeanne Savage, M.D., family practice and obstetrics, has had only one job as a physician: at Salud Medical Center in Woodburn, a clinic with an underserved patient population that is 85 percent Latino.

“This is going to sound altruistic to the point of ridiculous, but I knew when I was a little girl that I would care for the underserved. I didn’t ever consider the cost of medical school or what I would make after school,” says Dr. Savage, who was influenced by her own experience growing up with a single mom in Oregon. “Sometimes we would eat canned chili and chips. It was tough, but my mom made sure I had what I needed.”

Today, Dr. Savage is married with three children, and drives from Southwest Portland to the clinic three or four days per week for a 13-hour day, depending on her 24-hour OB on-call shift at Legacy Silverton Medical Center. She delivers between 65 to 80 babies per year at Legacy Silverton as part of her practice.

“I love the long-term relationships with my patients,” says Dr. Savage. “They trust me. If I say, ‘You should vaccinate your kids,’ they do it. If I say, ‘You should take this diabetes medication,’ they take it.”

That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Access to the full-spectrum of care for an indigent population is a challenge. “I have to offer options based on what they can pay for and what is available,” she says.

She adds, “We have to talk about whether to get a study done. I’ll ask, ’What’s going to get you better?’ Sometimes I have to suggest that they set aside $50 per month if the test is still needed later.”

Transportation and child care are huge issues for her patients as well, and some of her patients can’t get a driver’s license or valid ID card.

Lessons learned

Cultural sensitivity is a huge part of working with Latino patients. “It’s important to make time to identify who in the family is going to take care of the patient during recovery and to make sure they understand and can appropriately share information.”

One of the first things Dr. Savage learned about examining female Latino patients is to keep the gown covering their knees. “It shows a sense of respect,” she says.

Dr. Savage is also OB chair for the Legacy Silverton Medical Center medical executive committee, and she chairs the quality/transformation committee for the Willamette Valley Community Health CCO. In her spare time, Dr. Savage loves to run, coach her kids' sports and spend time with her family in the outdoors.

The bottom line for Dr. Savage is a love for the work she does, her partners and staff members who help her provide care. She chooses to remain caring for patients at Salud Medical Center, and it’s clear she gets as much as she gives.

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