In December, JPS Health Network hosted its annual Medical Staff and Advanced Practice Professionals Award Ceremony. This event is held at the end of every year to appreciate and recognize the hard work of the medical staff and advanced practice professionals throughout the year. Physician and APP of the Year awards are presented to individuals during the ceremony.
Joel Hunt, Physician Assistant, Director Acclaim Street Medicine, has been named APP of the Year. This achievement highlights his significant impact on the JPS community, particularly on patients experiencing homelessness.
"I am glad Joel received this award. He is an awesome provider and holds so many wonderful qualities," said Nicole Lee, Mobile Health Social Worker, Acclaim Street Medicine. "He's very humble and doesn't like the spotlight, but I want him to know I am proud of him. He cares for his patients and treats them with dignity and respect consistently. When caring for a patient, he's focused on them and no one else."
Hunt is the leader of the Street Medicine team. This team provides healthcare and advocacy services to underserved patients. Being a part of this team has allowed Hunt to offer care to individuals who may not have received it otherwise. Hunt is grateful for the opportunity to serve this population.
"The fact that JPS and Acclaim allow Street Medicine not only to exist but to thrive is a huge testament to their dedication to the community," Hunt said. "I am extremely happy when the Network has the opportunity to recognize the work done not just with Street Medicine but with all the good that various departments do. I will always be grateful for the opportunity to do this work. It is an absolute privilege."
Hunt has been a member of JPS for nearly a decade. He advocates for his patients and delivers empathy and understanding, letting them know they have someone backing them up in every circumstance.
"Joel cares about his patients so much and wants them to succeed and do well wherever they are because a lot of them don't see the value in themselves at times. When he speaks to them, he encourages and shows them their value," Lee said. "That is reflected in the way he talks to them. Any doctor or physician assistant can provide care, but those interactions are important to help patients not feel judged, but cared about."
As a provider in a healthcare system that caters to a larger population, it is easy to overlook that healthcare is not just limited to medical treatment. Hunt emphasizes that ensuring patients feel acknowledged and listened to is as important as addressing their medical condition. This shows concern for the patient's well-being, which fosters trust and comfort between the patient and the healthcare provider.
"It's important to keep the humanizing and dignifying piece of healthcare,” Hunt said. “It's easy to lose sight of the person behind the number or disease, and in my many years of doing this, that is the biggest thing for me – making the people we serve feel seen. They want to be seen and heard and have a choice and opinion. Those are the things in addition to the advocacy, fighting, action, and providing medical care. That is imperative to all of healthcare, not just a certain specialty or hospital, and that's what I teach our residents and learners. It's not something that stays just in street medicine."
In addition to his patient care, Hunt's compassion and advocacy also carry over into his leadership, inspiring growth within the team.
"I enjoy working with Joel. We always have fun together. This has been the longest position I've held in my professional career, and he is part of the reason," Lee said. "Him as a leader keeps me motivated to continue to do the work that we do. We serve a challenging population, and he reminds us to stay positive. The way he demonstrates his care for the patients is noteworthy. He also allows me to grow outside my scope, and I enjoy that because he challenges me in my work."
Hunt was honored when named APP of the Year but credited the interactions with his patients and team members for motivating him daily.
"The things that inspire me to come in each day are the people; the people that we serve and the people I work with," Hunt said. We have a great team and a great working environment. There are always new challenges from the patient care perspective. It's their faces, stories, needs, appreciativeness, and humanity. They're definitely the motivation. I find great joy in helping relieve suffering in others where I can bring them joy. It always seems to end where I feel I get more than I give in happiness, gratitude, resilience, and grit."