When patients see Kathy (Lechner) Welch at the Family Health Partnership Clinic, they are getting more than an opportunity to heal.
They also can be connected to services that go beyond treating the symptoms at hand.
Welch, 58, is a full-time nurse practitioner at the clinic, which provides health care to the uninsured and underinsured in the area. Last year, Welch and 29 volunteer doctors handled 9,000 patient visits.
Her dedication to patients and the community make her an Everyday Hero, said her nominator, daughter Jacqueline Kaufmann.
“She’s an amazing, inspirational person,” Kaufmann said.
Welch initially went into teaching but decided that she wanted more of a challenge, she said.
So she chose nursing and earned her associate degree in nursing through a cooperative arrangement between Elgin Community College and McHenry County College.
That led to working at Memorial Medical Center in Woodstock in the labor and delivery department.
When her children were a little older, Welch received her bachelor’s degree in nursing through a distance learning program at St. Joseph College of Maine.
While working part time at Memorial, Welch spent three years earning doctorate degrees in primary care and genetics from Rush University in Chicago.
Later, when then-employer Dr. Robin Purdy sold his practice to Centegra Health System, Welch had time to volunteer. She began helping at the Family Health Partnership Clinic, where she spent four years before being hired full time in 2011.
“I have a true passion for helping people,” Welch said. “And they had a great need.”
That dedication leads Welch to spend 12-hour days seeing patients and making sure they receive their test results as quickly as possible. In addition, she plays a critical role in the clinic’s medication assistance program, which obtains medication for free from drug companies for specific patients.
“She’s very thorough, and she puts the patient foremost in all the work she does,” clinic Executive Director Suzanne Hoban said. “It takes a special provider to look at a patient holistically.”
Welch’s patients often haven’t seen a doctor in years and come in with a number of problems, Hoban said. For instance, a patient with a bronchial infection might not have heat in her home.
“Many of my patients are jobless, and some are homeless,” Welch said.
Welch will ask additional questions and direct patients to the right services to get the problem fixed, Hoban said.
Because of her background in genetics, Welch spends extra time getting a patient’s history to see whether he or she has a predisposition to certain illnesses, such as cancer, heart disease or diabetes.
It guides her care and provides another opportunity to educate patients, she said.
In addition to her work at the clinic, Welch has served on the District 200 school board for 13 years.
Professionally, she is the Region 2 chairman of the Illinois Society for Advanced Practice Nursing, which gives her an opportunity to teach other nurses, and a member of the International Society of Nurses in Genetics.
“[She] tirelessly works to serve her community in every way possible,” Kaufmann wrote in her nomination letter.
On the home front, Welch is a newlywed, having married husband Jim in August. Between them, they have seven children, all grown.