Skip to main content.

Urban Health Care Provider Spotlight: Caitlin Chiles, M.D.

Urban underserved communities have greater health disparities and less access to health care, and Caitlin Chiles, M.D. knew she wanted to focus on this population in her hometown.

Dr. Chiles in the lobby of Hunter Health
Dr. Chiles in the lobby of Hunter Health

When Caitlin Chiles was a little girl growing up in Wichita, her mother worked as a nurse – often giving her daughter medical explanations to her many questions.

“I loved it,” recalled Dr. Chiles. “That kind of piqued my interest.”

Her curiosity as a child ultimately led to medical school at the University of Kansas; she graduated in 2015 as part of the first class that spent all four years at the Wichita Campus. Currently, as the director of primary care at the nonprofit Hunter Health on Grove Street, she has brought her passion to helping medically underserved people through an integrated health care model.

Originally created to offer care to Native Americans, Hunter Health now serves anyone who needs care in and beyond Sedgwick County. Hunter Health is Wichita’s first Federally Qualified Health Center and remains the only Urban Indian Health Program in Kansas.

“I really am connected to the (Hunter Health) mission and helping patients,” Dr. Chiles said. “Our health care system is so broken, and I love working for an organization that helps to level that playing field for people who are disadvantaged.”

Serving urban underserved

The Goddard High School graduate attended Wichita State focused on pre-med studies and volunteered at the JayDoc Free Clinic on St. Francis Avenue, which is run by medical and pharmacy students under the supervision of an attending licensed physician and pharmacist. Her experience at JayDoc “opened my eyes to this whole community of people who need help,” she said.

So she continued to volunteer at JayDoc throughout medical school and even occasionally during her residency at Wesley Family Medicine.

“Helping the underserved felt like the right thing to do for me,” Dr. Chiles said. “That was just part of my experience the whole way, and I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.”

Urban underserved communities have greater health disparities and less access to health care, and Dr. Chiles knew she wanted to focus on this population in her hometown. The Kansas Recruitment and Retention Center, which assists Kansas communities in recruiting and retaining health care providers, connected her with an opening at Hunter Health. Like her counterpart placements in rural communities, Dr. Chiles has had the benefit of performing an array of procedures she might not otherwise do in private practice. She also works a flexible schedule and later shift for a better work-life balance, which benefits herself, her husband, and their soon-to-be 3-year-old son.

Dr. Chiles and family
Caitlin Chiles and her family

With her immediate family and her husband’s family here in Wichita, she is grateful for her “tight knit group.”

She also enjoys baking, playing board games, and meeting with friends over Zoom for a movie club three times a month to discuss various films.

“It’s a little nerdy, but I love it,” said Dr. Chiles, who met her husband at a local movie theater one summer while they were both in undergraduate studies.

Integrated care: a model

When she began working at Hunter in 2018, she saw patients full time, helping to connect them with other needed services and, as at JayDoc, seeing first-hand the hardships endured by those living in poverty. She stepped into a leadership role almost two years ago and has been aggressive in implementing some changes, particularly the health center’s Primary Care Provider Empanelment plan, which assigns each patient to a primary care provider rather than providing care on a first-come, first-served basis.

Such empanelment programs have been shown to improve the health and well-being of patients, according to research.

Under Hunter Health’s integrated care model, a variety of health care providers treat patients. Social workers screen patients for behavioral issues, the health center offers dental services (and is currently looking for its fourth full-time dentist), and Hunter Health also partners with KU’s Obstetrics & Gynecology Residency Program at Wesley Healthcare to offer prenatal care. The newborns are delivered at Wesley Medical Center, and then Hunter Health providers see the babies and mothers for their post-partum visit – a partnership that’s been in place for quite a long time, Chiles said.

There’s also a psychiatric resident seeing patients a half day a week, specifically for those with more complex mental health issues.

Last year, Hunter Health served 15,665 individual patients. And with the state declining to expand Medicaid in addition to covid protections set to expire, many are expected to lose their health coverage, leading Dr. Chiles to expect that even more patients will show up at the clinic this year.

‘Natural educator’ in the right spot

Kaitlin Boger, EdD LSCSW LCAC, director of integrated care at Hunter Health, said that Dr. Chiles has had a decidedly positive impact on the clinic and patients.

“Dr. Chiles cares about the whole person,” Dr. Boger said. “She is an advocate for integrated care ensuring her patients have access to not just medical care but behavioral health specialists, optometry and dental. She is diligent about patient care – helping the staff she supervises problem-solve how to best help our patients who often have limited resources.”

Easy to work with, Dr. Chiles is also a natural educator who has had several medical students rotate with her and spends time learning about evidence-based practices to ensure the clinic remains ahead of the curve, Dr. Boger said.

For Dr. Chiles, there’s a tremendous value to helping those who are in need, and there are plenty in need right here at home in Wichita.

When asked for any advice she would give medical students, Dr. Chiles said, “I think a really big thing is not let the numbers drive what you do. There’s so much more to a job than the salary.”

As a little girl, Dr. Chiles told her family that she was going to be a ballerina on Tuesdays and Thursdays and a dentist on Mondays and Wednesdays. She lost interest in tutus and teeth, but real life delivered.

“It worked out,” Dr. Chiles said. “This is where I am meant to be.”


We welcome nominations for future Kansas Health Care Provider Spotlights. Email epilolla@kumc.edu.

Newsroom
Media Inquiries

913-617-8698
khawes@kumc.edu

News and Media Relations