One of the greatest successes of a new clinic — located on U.S. 221 in Ashe County — is its efforts to remove previous barriers that limited rural residents’ access to health care.
Affiliated with Ashe Memorial Hospital, Fleetwood Family Medicine began taking patients in May 2021 and offers accessible, high-quality care for all ages. Fleetwood Family Medicine provider Kathleen “Katie” Miller, FNP-C, described the impact that this clinic has had on the community as being “far beyond my wildest dreams.”
“I have had patients come to me saying this is the first time they have been seen by a provider in over 30 years just because of the limited access to care, whether it be due to transportation issues, financial constraints, etc,” Katie says. “I have been able to diagnose some pretty significant medical problems that could have been detrimental had they continued to not seek health care.”
Katie graduated from Ashe County High School in 2007 and pursued higher education at Western Carolina University later that fall. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in May 2011.
After obtaining her undergraduate degree, she began working at Ashe Memorial Hospital as a Med-Surg nurse that same month. She spent about a year on the Med-Surg unit before starting a job as a labor and delivery nurse. She continued in that unit until she finished with her Masters of Science in Nursing from East Tennessee State University in August 2015.
She has been married to her high school sweetheart Josh for nine and a half years. Together they have 8-month-old twin sons, Brooks and Oliver, and a chocolate lab named Charlee May.
Her family nurse practitioner (FNP) career began at Mountain Family Care Center in Jefferson, where she worked in primary and urgent care until July 2018. She then moved to Mount Jefferson Family Medicine, where she provided primary care to all ages.
Katie worked at MJFM until her big move to Fleetwood Family Medicine in May.
The clinic and its team, which currently consists of Katie and her medical assistant Beverly Barker, has seen a steady flow of patients for labs and checkups since opening.
Services and treatment include complete physical exams, chronic condition management, ear infections, cold and flu (strep throat), flu and COVID-19 testing, gastrointestinal problems, genitourinary conditions, gynecology, falls and injuries, family medicine, immunizations, minor burns and lacerations, minor eye injuries, Medicare annual well visits, pediatrics, pre-employment physical exams, pregnancy confirmation, primary care, rashes, respiratory infections, sports physicals, STD testing, urinary tract infections and walk-in appointments.
“Patients have been very pleased and so appreciative of us being here,” Katie says. “They continually say how happy they are to have access to health care for the first time in a long time. It has been somewhat challenging at times but oh so rewarding as well. It always feels so amazing when I can help impact a patient positively, especially when it comes to their health.”
The driving factor in her decision to pursue a career in medicine was the positive impact of nurses who took care of her family members.
“Growing up in my teenage years, I had to deal with quite a bit of sickness in my family,” Katie says. “I was in and out of hospitals a lot and something that I will always remember were the nurses that took care of my family during their most vulnerable times. It was from that point that I knew I always wanted to be a nurse and help others during their times of need.”
She describes herself as a “stickler” for recommending preventative health screenings for women. Scheduling appointments with a physician for routine tests such as mammograms and pap smears can help prevent or drastically reduce some of the negative outcomes of the most common health issues females face. These common health issues include breast cancer, cervical cancer and heart disease.
Katie is also a huge advocate for mental health and says that often she finds that people have preconceived misconceptions about mental illness. She feels that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of mental health is even more crucial.
“I always tell my patients, it is always OK to not be OK but I want them to always know and feel comfortable to ask for help if they need it,” Katie says. “I think a lot of people have misconceptions about mental health because they think of it just as depression and/or anxiety but it can be so much more than that. There are also misconceptions that the only thing that can help with mental health is medication.”
To combat any mental health problems that her patients may experience, she strives to encourage all of them to stay active and live a healthy lifestyle. Through leading a healthier lifestyle and making better dietary choices, symptoms of altered mental health can improve.
Fleetwood Family Medicine is located at 3300-13290 U.S. 221 S. in Fleetwood, NC. The clinic’s hours of operation are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. To schedule an appointment, call the office at (336) 877-9090.