By Jean Klewitz
The TAFP Heart of Texas Chapter started a chapter grant program in early 2020. Supported by family physicians, the grant program fuels local community work. Applicants to the grant program are chapter members supporting the local community or member-nominated community groups within the Heart of Texas’ 12 counties.
Leaders of the chapter, Karen Smith, MD, chair, and Katharina Hathaway, MD, vice chair, met while doing some nonprofit work together through the Manor Community Wellness Alliance. Smith was working with others to start the Manor Free Clinic. Their meeting in humanitarian work helped fuel philanthropic community work within their chapter.
The Heart of Texas Chapter Grant Program was initiated after an evaluation of the chapter’s finances. Discovering a significant amount of money, the Heart of Texas Chapter started brainstorming what could be done with it. “Many chapters present CME, put on programs, and provide steak dinners for their members,” Hathaway says, “Karen suggested giving away grants instead.”
Smith got the idea while working on the Manor Community Wellness Alliance. The alliance struggled to get funds for the free clinic and knew how a small grant could make a big difference. “My husband said, ‘You want to run for president of something that has no agenda but has money? You usually have a huge agenda and no money,’” Smith says. “We wanted to use it well and be good stewards of it and use it for the community. We also wanted to serve our physician population and the causes that are close to their hearts. And those are going to vary and be as diverse as our family doctors are.”
The chapter suggested the grants would be from between $500 to $5,000 and would leverage the efforts of community groups and individuals in the area that were making a difference. The board and members loved the idea. “It didn’t seem to be controversial,” Hathaway says, “Everyone was really onboard with it and had great ideas of groups they knew in their communities.”
During this inaugural year, the program received five applications, and awarded two grants. The chapter awarded $5,000 to the Texas Physicians for Social Responsibility to produce a report entitled “Environmental Threats to Public Health: Mobilizing for Action Now.” The chapter also awarded Jennifer Pollard Ruiz $875 to train and develop a physician wellness program entitled, “Using Narrative Medicine to Create Resilience: How Can Stories Heal Us?”
The TAFP Heart of Texas Chapter, formerly known as the Travis County Chapter, covers 12 counties: Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Gillespie, Hays, Lampasas, Lee, Llano, San Saba, Travis, and Williamson. The chapter is looking for innovative leaders within the counties to get involved. “We have money, but we need more people to make it work,” Hathaway says.
In observation of the first year of the grant program, the chapter was delighted by the many creative ideas submitted from the community and realized the need for a part-time administrative staff for future grant cycles. The chapter now plans to have two grant cycles per year, one in the spring and one in the fall, and the focus will always be service. “We wanted something that would work across that urban-rural-suburban continuum, and community service is one thing that does,” Smith says.
TAFP helps send out notices about these grant cycles, so if you’re interested and are in the Heart of Texas Chapter, be looking for the notice this year. The Heart of Texas Chapter believes the program will help raise the profile of their TAFP chapter and support the members who are involved in community service. “We are challenging family doctors to serve in the community, to let us know where they’re already serving, and to identify other worthy causes that are serving their communities,” Smith says.