By Leslie Collins
April 4, 2012
Dr. Elaine Joslyn almost gave up on becoming a doctor.
Falling in love and tying the knot, she pushed aside her medical career to concentrate on marriage.
“That was my choice. I was going to be a wife and mother,” Joslyn said. “I kept going back to school more as a hobby than anything because I loved school.”
After 13 years of squeezing in college classes between raising three boys, she finally earned her pre-med undergraduate degree and began working as a medical technologist for what’s now called Truman Medical Center Lakewood.
It wasn’t until she attended a “Women Moving into the 1980s” seminar, that the nagging voice to become a doctor resounded through her mind.
One of the seminar leaders asked the question, “If you could do anything you wanted – if you didn’t have to think about a husband, a family, a job – if you could just think about you, what would you do?”
“It just instantly popped into my head that I would be a doctor,” Joslyn said.
With her husband’s support, she began attending the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences (KCUMB), where she earned her Doctor of Osteopathic medicine degree at the age of 40. Following graduation, she worked for KCUMB for 9 years as a medical director of a clinic on Independence Avenue in Historic Northeast. In 1994, she opened her private practice, NEighborhood Family Care, 4601 Independence Ave.
For Joslyn, it’s the sense of community and the small town feel that’s kept her in Northeast. That sense of community also led her to found Northeast Neighbor to Neighbor, a 501(c)3 organization that financially assists Northeast residents with a specific, short-term medical need. Since its inception in 2005, Neighbor to Neighbor has helped approximately 40 Northeast residents with their medical needs.
“It gets me out of that uncomfortable position of knowing that someone needs something done and having the road block of money keeping it from being done,” she said.
Neighbor to Neighbor assists those with no insurance, those with insurance that won’t cover a service they need and those who simply can’t afford a medical service.
“The concept is that the recipient of the services pays back in some way – either helps pay for part of the service or does volunteer work or makes a donation to Neighbor to Neighbor. In some way, they do something.”
One of the major fundraisers for the organization is the annual Cliffhanger Run, where people can be a sponsor for Neighbor to Neighbor or simply donate. Donations are also accepted through PayPal on the Neighbor to Neighbor website, www.nnncares.org.
One of the organization’s first recipients was a truck driver who broke his wrist playing football with his grandchildren. The man put on a splint and returned to work, but five weeks later, his wrist still hurt.
“We got an x-ray and it showed he had a fracture of a bone right by the thumb,” she said. “It’s a small but serious fracture.”
That particular bone receives a meager blood supply and if the fractured bone isn’t taken care of properly, the bone can die, resulting in deformity and loss of use in the hand and arm.
Through her contacts, Joslyn secured a discount for surgery and rehabilitation.
“Now, he’s back to driving his truck,” she said.
Another recipient suffered from high blood pressure and Joslyn suspected sleep apnea as the culprit. The recipient received a discount on the sleep study, which confirmed he had sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that causes abnormal breathing. Receiving the discount on the sleep study allowed the man to afford a CPAP machine to assist with his breathing during sleep.
“His wife says he’s like a new person; he has energy, his attitude is better, he’s not as grumpy and we’ve been able to control his blood pressure,” Joslyn said.
Joslyn switched to speaking about her practice and the pure joy she receives from serving Northeast. She doesn’t plan to leave Northeast any time soon, either.
“These are my people,” she said. “This is who I’m about.”