For over 25 years, Siloam Health has worked to share the love of Christ by serving those in need through health care. What began in 1991 with a few volunteer medical providers seeing patients on Saturday mornings in the apartment building of an inner-city neighborhood ,has gone on to become a model of charitable care in Middle Tennessee. Today, Siloam serves more than 4,000 individuals each year, providing medical care for the uninsured and underserved, community health initiatives for vulnerable immigrant and refugee populations, and student education programs for the next generation of health care providers.
Based on a strong belief that every person – regardless of homeland, resources, or religion – is worthy of respect and care as an image-bearer of God, Siloam seeks to care not just for the physical health of those they serve, but for their mental, emotional, and spiritual health as well. They call it whole-person care, and in everything they do, Siloam strives to provide what their tagline posits: health care transformed by love.
In Nashville, one in eight residents was born outside of the United States, and Siloam is proud to provide an excellent level of culturally-sensitive care for the city’s international community. Over 90% of Siloam’s patients were born outside of the U.S., representing more than 80 homelands and speaking over 70 languages. With an interdisciplinary team that is anchored by a multicultural staff of nurses, medical providers, social workers, and behavioral health consultants, Siloam is uniquely equipped to meet the unique challenges of immigrants and refugees. More than a dozen nationalities are represented on Siloam’s staff, which often serves to bridge the language and cultural gap for those they serve, removing barriers to their care and helping them build sustainable lives of flourishing in the United States.
“The uninsured, medically vulnerable, and culturally marginalized arrive full of both wonderful gifts and real brokenness, but daily leave Siloam with hope and healing, says Siloam CEO, Dr. Morgan Wills. “Meanwhile, volunteers, staff, and students arrive with their own set of gifts and brokenness; but in the experience of mutual hospitality, they lose themselves in powerful, heart-level connections. Both groups discover the joy of participating in something bigger than themselves.”
As a natural progression of Siloam’s mission, the Community Health Worker program was launched in 2014 as a way to come alongside vulnerable immigrant and refugee populations to help them take ownership of their health and the health of their communities. Siloam employs seven Community Health Workers, who are trained members of local immigrant communities and serve as health ambassadors to help fellow immigrants navigate health and social service systems, address the root cause of disease, and strengthen social capital.
Nothing that Siloam does happens without the help of the Nashville community.
More than 600 volunteers partner with Siloam in their mission each year, both inside their primary care clinic and out in the Nashville community. Clinic volunteers range from specialty medical care providers and pharmacists to language interpreters and prayer intercessors. Churches partner with Siloam on many levels by providing valuable funding to sustain their mission, pastoral care volunteers to meet with patients, and small groups to walk alongside refugees through the Nashville Neighbors program. Nashville Neighbors pairs volunteer groups with newly-arrived refugee families to teach basic health lessons that will help them navigate life in the U.S. and build relationships that strengthen the bridge between new Nashvillians and established residents. (Visit www.siloamhealth.org/get-involved/nashville-neighbors/ to learn more!)
One story that exemplifies the work of Siloam is an early experience of Dr. Wills, who has served at Siloam for more than 18 years, first as a volunteer student practitioner, then as a staff provider, and eventually in his current role as CEO.
“I was meeting with a Vietnamese woman who’d had a routine cervical cancer screening a week earlier. After informing her that the results were normal there was an awkward silence before she burst into tears. It took several minutes for her to regain her composure before she could explain that these were tears of joy.
“It turns out that she had been diagnosed with cervical cancer in Vietnam, but with no good treatment options available, she’d received it as a virtual death sentence. When I asked how long she had been living in Nashville without medical care, believing she had cancer, she responded, ‘two years.’ Can you imagine? Culturally and linguistically isolated, ignorant of our health system, and fearful of medical bankruptcy, she had quietly suffered for two years! All while living just a half-mile from three major medical centers.
After rejoicing with her, I asked her why she came to Siloam in the first place. She wiped away her tears, smiled, and said: ‘I heard that you loved your patients here.’
“It was in that moment that I knew that Siloam provides so much more for our patients than physical care.
We become a haven and refuge for many who are lost in the confusion and complexity of our health care system. It’s not just about the medical care they receive here, but the fact that the love of Christ flows out of everything we do.”
Show your support by donating to Siloam or becoming a GLOCAL Partner, which is someone who impacts Nashville’s increasingly global community through local action by giving monthly to the work of Siloam Health. Visit www.siloamhealth.org/give-monthly/ to learn more.