Student David Thomas promotes health care access via Amazon Neighborhood Health Centers

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In 2020, Amazon partnered with Crossover Health, an expert in comprehensive primary care services, to establish local, convenient health centers near Amazon fulfillment centers and operations facilities across the country. The Amazon Neighborhood Health Centers provide full-spectrum acute, chronic, and preventive primary care, including same-day sick care pediatrics, prescriptions, vaccinations, behavioral health services, physical therapy, health coaching, and care navigation for specialty referrals and diagnostic services for Amazon employees and their dependents.

David Thomas, a second-year Community-Oriented Public Health Practice Master of Public Health (COPHP MPH) student, is one of three program managers for the centers, and works with his team to provide program management, community outreach, relationship building, data examination, operations development, and health education planning.

Amazon built the Neighborhood Health Centers to be close by to where its employees live and work, a pioneering effort which has resulted in increased access to health care for Amazon’s thousands of workers and their families. “Exceptional primary and preventative care is the key to achieving and maintaining good health, but it can be incredibly difficult to find a good primary care provider,” Thomas said. “When I first moved to Seattle, I had not established a primary care provider. I got sick, and the most convenient place for me to go was an urgent care. I ended up paying way more than I would have if I had gone to see a primary care provider for what turned out to be terrible allergies. Emergency rooms and urgent care are expensive options that treat acute injuries/health problems, however, they overlook preventative care opportunities. We want to solve for that by providing low-cost, low-barrier-to-access health centers for our population.”

For Thomas, his work with the Amazon Neighborhood Health Centers, and his training in the UW COPHP MPH program, have both reinforced a single message: center the public’s needs. “Whether you client is a customer or a patient, if you aren’t centering your client in your decision, intervention, and appointment process, most likely, you are not going to attend to their needs,” Thomas said. “As public health professionals, we must work together and alongside our communities, to develop programs and products that work to better their health. When we identify what our communities are asking for, we can identify the best solutions — those that serve to reduce health inequities.”

“If we are not providing client-centric care, we are not doing public health.”

— David Thomas

Over the course of his career, Thomas has worked for a variety of health and wellness companies and nonprofits, including Seattle Children’s Research Institute and Public Health Seattle King County. He has primarily worked with populations who have been historically marginalized, as well as with at-risk workers, such as child care providers, front line workers. “From an early age, I was aware that people’s opportunities to have good health, and good health care, were not equal,” Thomas said. “As I grew as a manager and professional, I developed what I like to call ‘empathetic leadership’: leading by example, having a deep compassion for people and their experiences, and galvanizing a community through shared goals. This is what I am bringing to the table for our Neighborhood Health Centers at Amazon.”

For Thomas, his MPH training has greatly influenced the way he approaches his work and career. Particularly memorable courses include: Population Health with Kendra Liljenquist and Brett Niessen, Policy with Gerry Pollet, Quantitative Methods with Gita Krishnaswamy, and Evaluation and Community Organizing with Roxana Norouzi. “The COPHP MPH problem based learning curriculum was integral to my development as a public health professional,” Thomas said. “I have taken away lessons from each faculty member and put them into use daily. Particularly, COPHP teaches you how to work together with a team of individuals, who began as strangers, to develop a product for a client. This is a skill that is useful across any industry.”

“My life mission is to reduce barriers to access in health care and health education,” he said. “And to create an atmosphere of kindness and compassion in every role I serve in. I am excited to continue that with Amazon.”

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