Community partnership announced amid COVID response

For their contributions to the community during the COVID-19 pandemic, Baylor’s Dr. Peter Hotez and Dr. Jim McDeavitt were honored by the Center for Pursuit, itself an important community resource for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Khambrel Marshall, meteorologist and host of “Houston Newsmakers” on KPRC Channel 2, served as emcee at a responsible, socially distanced event on Sept. 3 that highlighted the work of the Center for Pursuit and honored the fact-driven leadership of Hotez and McDeavitt, concluding with a discussion with the two Baylor experts on the state of the pandemic in Houston and beyond.

David Baldwin, chair of the Baylor College of Medicine Board of Trustees and vice president of the Pursuit Foundation Board, provided a video message at the event to announce a new collaboration between the Center for Pursuit and Baylor and Texas Children’s Hospital and to extend his appreciation to Hotez and McDeavitt.

“The Center for Pursuit is very fortunate to have an exciting partnership with Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital. We’re excited to announce that they will be building their first Transition Medicine Clinic outside of the Texas Medical Center on our new campus in Houston’s East End. This partnership is part of our strategy to bring new and innovative support services for our clients on to our new center via collaboration with best-in-class experts. On behalf of my wife, Maire, our CEO, Charles Canton, and our staff and clients, I would like to personally thank Dr. McDeavitt and Dr. Hotez for joining us today as they support the work we do on a daily basis.”

The Center for Pursuit promotes the pursuit of choice, growth, and independence for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, collectively known as the IDD population. Its services, some of which have been impacted by the pandemic, include classroom-style day programs, residential and employment resources, professional counseling, dental care, fitness classes and more.

The Center is moving to its new, state-of-the-art, mixed-use campus in Houston’s East End in 2021, after more than 50 years at its current location on West Dallas.

“Our goal is to create a new and unprecedented campus to house and support new employment, wellness and health programs and significantly expand access to persons with IDD in Houston,” said Charles Canton, president and CEO of the Center for Pursuit. “This campus is unique in Houston and the country, and it’s flexible, inclusive, innovative, sustainable and collaborative. It’s a pioneering mixed-used vision to create an inviting destination to encourage all Houstonians and other IDD organizations to participate with us in campus activities.”

The new campus will include space for Baylor and Texas Children’s Transition Medicine Clinic, expanding on the clinic’s services currently offered at Baylor’s McNair Campus.

The Transition Medicine Clinic provides healthcare for the IDD population and others with complex conditions who are transitioning from pediatric to adult care, and it serves as their medical home for their adult lives.

Most of the patients in the Transition Medicine Clinic require a high level of care coordinated among multiple specialists, and they often are dependent on devices such as tracheostomy or gastrointestinal tubes. Expansion to the Center for Pursuit campus will allow the Transition Medicine Clinic to provide healthcare to a broader range of patients with less complex medical needs.

“Eighty percent of the IDD population has mild cognitive defect, but they still struggle getting appropriate healthcare, often due to communication challenges. We’re looking forward to having a new clinic to treat this group of patients,” said Dr. Cynthia Peacock, associate professor of medicine and director of the Transition Medicine Clinic. “We’ll also be able to provide care at the new facility to patients with genetic syndromes and other lifelong diseases who do not need the high level of specialty care that we provide in our Texas Medical Center clinic.”

Peacock is excited that the Transition Medicine Clinic will be part of the innovative new campus of the Center for Pursuit.

“The beauty of this campus is having a community that understands the IDD population. From housing to employment to healthcare, everything will be geared toward them and helping them achieve success.”

The IDD population has not been immune to the COVID-19 pandemic, Peacock added. Many live in group homes or in multigenerational households that have experienced COVID cases, and their employment, or ability to gain employment, also has been impacted. Further, it takes a nuanced approach to teach the IDD population about mitigation practices like wearing masks and social distancing, since many experience tactile issues while others are emotionally expressive (they’re “huggers,” Peacock fondly explained.)

Just as they have throughout the entire pandemic, Hotez and McDeavitt were on hand at the Sept. 3 event to provide important information, both cautioning that it’s not time to let our guards down about COVID-19.

McDeavitt emphasized three important metrics needed for the reopening of schools, expanded business operations and events – new community case rate of under 200 per day; R value of under 1; and testing positivity rate under 5% for a sustained period.

Hotez discussed the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, expressing confidence that a vaccine is on the horizon, perhaps even multiple vaccines; however he said we must ensure its safety and efficacy and not allow political pressure to hasten the process. He also said that he and his wife, Ann, cannot wait to be a part of the new Center for Pursuit campus with their adult daughter, Rachel, who has autism.

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By Dana Benson