March 12, 2013 – More than 20 years later, Jennifer Keehbauch, M.D., clearly recalls the experience that ignited her passion to care for the medically underserved.
She was a third-year UF College of Medicine student, accompanying Louis Kuritzky, M.D., an assistant professor in the family medicine program, on a visit to a rural Alachua County clinic, and one of his patients didn’t have money for the medicine he prescribed.
“So he just reached into his wallet and handed her money for her prescription,” recalled Keehbauch, a 1992 graduate of the UF College of Medicine.
It was compassionate physicians like Kuritsky who inspired Keehbauch to found the Community After Hours Clinic for the Uninsured at Florida Hospital in Orlando.
“This is our 10th year,” said Keehbauch, the clinic’s medical director and a family physician at Florida Hospital. “We’ve seen more than 25,000 patients.”
Expanded this year to include specialty services, the clinic primarily cares for working, uninsured adults. It serves patients on evenings and weekends and occupies space at the hospital’s employee clinic.
Keehbauch also is a leader in research and medical education at Florida Hospital, where she is the director of research and continuing medical education, associate director of family medicine residency and director of women’s health fellowship.
Her own research focuses on women’s health, along with pediatric obesity and improving care using electronic medical records.
“I like learning new things and tackling new initiatives,” she said.
A mother of three, Keehbauch learned how to juggle her career and a family early on. She started medical school five months pregnant and her daughter Caitlin was born a day before Thanksgiving. “I showed up pregnant and I tried to hide it,” she recalled of her first day of medical school.
Her husband worked in Orlando four days a week, so Keehbauch, who resumed school in January, often managed medical school and parenthood alone.
“It teaches you balance right off the bat,” she said.
To help pay for medical school, Keehbauch joined the U.S. Air Force. She spent three years practicing at an air force base in South Carolina, an experience that led her to change her specialty from obstetrics/gynecology to family medicine.
“I fell in love with family medicine in the U.S. Air Force,” Keehbauch said. “You took care of whole families in the military.”
She completed her family medicine residency at Florida Hospital Orlando in 1999 and was hired as faculty. She also completed a fellowship in underserved medicine at the University of California, San Diego.
Keehbauch has cared for underserved populations internationally as well participating in several mission trips to Mexico as part of the Cervical Cancer Project International Foundation. Mexico has high death rates from cervical cancer because of poor access to screening.
“My passion is local mission, but an international mission is a very life-changing experience,” she said.
Kuritzky, Keehbauch’s former professor, said he was not aware of Keehbauch’s accomplishments or the impact he’d made on her.
“But,” he said, “that is very gratifying to hear.”
Faculty members hope to teach students not only concrete knowledge and skills, but humanitarianism as well, he said.
In Keehbauch’s case, those lessons certainly stuck. She won the 2011 Central Florida Humanitarian Award for her work locally and abroad and was named the Florida Academy of Family Physicians’ Family Physician of the Year 2007. As secretary/ treasurer of the Florida Academy of Family Physicians, she is slated to become president of the state organization in 2014.
Still, she said she is proudest of founding the clinic.
“The needs are great,” Keehbauch said. “My goal is to try to inspire more folks as they go up through their medical training to continue in this area.”