Behind the scenes at Whitman-Walker Health: An array of medical and wellness services

In its 50th year, the health care provider continues to expand its services and is preparing to open a new location in Southeast DC. We talk with CEO Naseema Shafi to learn about Whitman-Walker Health’s many health and wellness services.

Whitman-Walker Health is known as a first responder to the AIDS epidemic and well as a leader in HIV and AIDS education, prevention, diagnosis and treatment and LGBTQ care, but Whitman-Walker is much more than that and this year will continue to expand its health care services to the region’s community at a new location in the District of Columbia.

CEO Naseema Shafi sat down for WTOP’s Get on Top of Your Health series to talk about the expansion and the vast array of medical services Whitman-Walker Health provides to the community. She shared details about the services available now from the health care organization that began as a small DC clinic in 1973.

Gender affirming services

Gender affirming services “are provided in a culturally competent way by people who understand clinical standards of care,” Shafi said.

“For people seeking this type of help, they’re going to want to be in environments where they’re understood, where they don’t have to explain who they are and where the clinicians who are treating them understand the kinds of standards, in particular, around hormone treatments,” she said, adding, “That’s something we do here very well at Whitman-Walker.”

Gender affirming services also include legal services.

“Our legal services team will work with patients to change their name and gender markers on documents, and think about your license, passport and insurance cards — so everyone gets your name right,” Shafi said.

Patients can also talk about treatment plans or get referrals if they’re interested in surgery. “Whitman-Walker Health works with local surgeons, and can help patients navigate that process,” she said.

Adolescent care

Care for transgender and gender expansive adolescents is also a priority at Whitman-Walker Health. “We’ve been providing care for people under 18 for a few years now,” Shafi said. It’s not as large as we’d like, and we are expanding that program.”

The health care provider wants to add behavioral health care services and peer support programs.

Dental care

Whitman-Walker Health has provided dental care since the 1980s and was one of the first to provide dental care to people with HIV/AIDS.

“Over 16,000 patients were served last year,” Shafi said, “with big expansion plans coming.”

Whitman-Walker Health also provides various kinds of treatments with state-of-the art X-ray technology and other services found in any modern dental practices.

Women’s services

For people who identify as female, Whitman-Walker Health provides an array of preventive services with the goal of making sure women’s returns annually.

“We want to make sure that we’re checking your blood work, your lipid panels and cholesterol,” Shafi said. But “there’s also cervical health, which means we want to make sure we’re doing cancer screenings.”

Patients can get mammography referrals and support in understanding test results, she said.

New building, expanded research and care coming soon

With expanded care comes the need for a bigger facility. Whitman-Walker expects to open its new Max Robinson Center this fall on the St. Elizabeths campus in Southeast DC

“We will be able to expand health care services to more than 10,000 new patients once we’re fully operational. Many of the community members know we’ve done a large expansion in Northwest DC. It’s high time we got that done in Southeast, so we’re really looking forward to it,” Shafi said.

The new facility will provide services for children as young as 13, with spaces to do schoolwork, use Wi-Fi and wait in a private area that is separate from adult patients.

To learn more about these and other health services, visit the Whitman-Walker Health website. And to discover additional tips and tactics to get on top of your health, click here.

3 other things you might not know about Whitman-Walker Health
  • Whitman Walker has two pharmacies in DC: one in Southeast, in Anacostia, and one in Northwest, in Logan Circle. They are both open to the community. The pharmacy staff is familiar with navigating the complex world of insurance and with all the many ways that medicines interact with one another.
  • Whitman-Walker takes private insurance as well as Medicare and Medicaid: Insurance navigators can help if you are not insured, have a gap in insurance between employers or if you are a Medicare Part D participant.

“Our team will go through all of that with you. We believe strongly in people having insurance, and we will do everything we can to keep people insured,” said Whitman-Walker Health CEO Naseema Shafi.

  • Whitman-Walker makes doctor-patient relationships a priority: Not only will you see the same medical provider almost every time you come in, you’ll also be able to see the same dentist, nutritionist, acupuncturist or other care provider to advance your health goals.

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