Learning and training are central to Community-University clinic

“Our model is how to do teaming together across different services to better serve people,” said Colleen McDonald Doiuf, current CEO of the Community University Health Care Center (CUHCC). CUHCC is a federally qualified healthcare center that is also a part of the University of Minnesota.

“We have been around for 50 years,” McDonald Doiuf told the MSR. “We are located on the corner of Bloomington and Franklin in South Minneapolis. [At CUHCC we] provide a wide range of medical, dental, social service and mental health services to the community, 80 percent of whom are people of color, immigrants and refugees.

“We also provide services on a sliding fee scale.” The families they serve are continually affected by housing, economic, educational and healthcare disparities.

McDonald Doiuf continued, “We are one of the oldest community health centers in the Twin Cities. We started with two pediatricians who came and said the community has asked for the university to work with them on issues around health care. So they started a pediatric clinic to serve the kids. Then it evolved, realizing we could not just serve the kids but needed to serve adults, too!”

At the time it expanded to serve the adult population, the clinic noticed the adults needed dental care as well. They also noticed people coming back from the Vietnam War at that time with mental health concerns. That is how the clinic started adopting a holistic health model.

In 2016, they provided services to about 1,100 people per year with about 5,500 visits per year. “We also have an ongoing legal partnership with Stinson Leonard Street, where our clients also have access to pro-bono legal services,” said McDonald Doiuf, “which is very helpful to our patients. It is one of the only partnerships with a private law firm in the country.”

Sixteen years later, McDonald Doiuf found herself called to this practice. “I was working in mental health. I was particularly interested in folks who had experienced some trauma. At that time, [CUHCC] was one of the first places to serve Somalis who came into the clinic with mental health issues.

“Pretty much we have served a lot of folks from across all racial and ethnic groups around trauma. I remember that was, for me, one of the reasons that got me interested, and I started working here.

“The other component of the CUHCC partnership with the University of Minnesota is education and training of future healthcare providers of about 200 students and residents annually. We spend a lot of time with the community, and we get to serve as a pipeline for students who want to go into the medical profession.”

McDonald Doiuf added, “For people who want to start getting experience from when they are in their undergraduate programs, they can come and rotate here. We then have them go through their residency, graduate that residency program, and then sometimes they come back and work here with us if they are lucky. If not, they go out into the bigger world and work on community health issues.”

International travel gave McDonald Doiuf a broader perspective on health care. “After spending a year in Senegal, West Africa and working in a village with women who were learning education, I found that all the women who had gone through this program I was studying had changed their lives and improved the health outcomes of their children.

“So, when I came back I was looking for a job, and I started doing fundraising in our [CUHCC’s] mental health program. I then moved to program development and fundraising, and then to managing larger contracts. I then added our community mental health programs, which is our case management programs and our adult mental health rehab.”

After adding the mental health programs, she then applied for and got the associate director position, which she held for about three years. Currently, McDonald Doiuf has been in the CEO position for about a year and a half — “after a very rigorous interviewing process,” she pointed out. She is relatively new to her current role but has been with the clinic for 17 years.

Regarding her work she said, “I love working for this clinic. Even if I wasn’t the CEO, I would say that. We are such a learning environment. If you like change and you like to do the best of care you can, this is the job for you. We have services in seven languages, and things change constantly.

“We are always learning from our patients. We are always learning from our communities. So, we are always learning and teaching others how to do that work.” They also collaborate with other schools at the university, such as the School of Nursing, the Medical School, and the Dental School.

In terms of the CUHCC’s future, “What I see our future as is that we will keep increasing our training and education so we can reach a wider range of patients and community members. There are not very many places that train the way we train. For example, doctors who are training here also get to work with mental health [staff]…so they can better serve someone with mental illness.”

This year, the clinic has patient advisors that teach healthcare students what they would like to learn. The clinic continues to provide resource and system sharing back and forth to better serve communities. Those looking for a clinic that supports cross-cultural and cross-system efforts are encouraged to reach out to CUHCC.


Call CUHCC at 612-301-3433 or visit their website at www.cuhcc.umn.edu.

This story was made possible by a grant from the Medtronic Foundation.


Brandi D. Phillips welcomes reader responses to bphillips@spokesman-recorder.com.