Sitting at her desk with her team by her side, Beth Wrobel of HealthLinc, is revolutionizing medicine, making her this week's “Valpo Life in the Spotlight.” With her cheerful smile and business-smart demeanor, Wrobel has been a force in the healthcare industry in Northwest Indiana for nearly 11 years.
HealthLinc, originally known as the Hilltop Neighborhood/Community Clinic, was started in 1996 as a free clinic for uninsured and underinsured adults in the Hilltop area. “The Hilltop area had the most poverty in the county,” Wrobel explained. “We now have several sites that treat dental, medical, mental and vision needs.” If a single-person makes $17,000 a year, they can receive treatment from HealthLinc for $20.
“I came to HealthLinc in 2002,” Wrobel explained. “Sometimes you're put in the right place at the right time. I was approached by Professor Beth Gingerich from VU and asked about running the health program here at HealthLinc.”
“Chronically-ill mental patients die, on average, 25 years before their peers,” Wrobel explained to me. “We're getting some amazing results. We're going to make sure that 25 years doesn't happen in Valparaiso.” HealthLinc currently has 17,200 patients which are treated by 150 employees, 28 of which are highly qualified doctors, dentists, hygienists, nurse practitioners and behavior-health specialists.
Wrobel, who was born in Baltimore, Maryland, is a graduate of Valparaiso University, where she majored in Mechanical Engineering. “I'm re-engineering the healthcare system,” she joked. Wrobel met her husband at Valparaiso University 25 years ago, and they then had three sons – Chris, Tom, and David. “I have a really good family who's put up with a lot,” Wrobel said. “If you don't have a supporting family, you won't make it.”
Wrobel runs HealthLinc, which is a not-for-profit organization, as a business. “I took the business model and applied it to healthcare. Hospitality, marketing... in healthcare, you want it to be patient-centered. A lot of medical programs are provider centered. Not us – we make sure the patient comes first.” However, Wrobel advised, you can't forget that you need to make money to survive as an organization. “Unless we're here and financially stable, we can't save lives.”
“Three years ago, I went to the Johnson & Johnson UCLA Health Care Executive Program. It's almost like a 'Mini-MBA,'” Wrobel proudly explained. “We were asked what we thought our community needed. And I thought of a new building for HealthLinc.” After that, HealthLinc bought a 2,200 square foot building space in Valparaiso on 1001 Sturdy Road. Construction started last Friday for the clinic that will treat patients for medical, dental, mental and vision ailments.
“We want to make sure the patient isn't waiting. We monitor the patient-center times so they're happy so they come back so we can keep them healthy,” Wrobel explained. “I'm data-driven, but HealthLinc is outcome-driven. I love new things. I love innovation. We treat people wholly – we help them get education, direct them to food pantries and help them search for jobs. ”
Wrobel credits the success of HealthLinc to her employees. “It's been exciting to watch it grow. My executive team is great. We're revolutionizing healthcare and how people are treated,” she said.
“Everyday we save someone's life and that's cool,” Wrobel explained, beaming. “Even though we're administration, we can make an impact on someone's life. Valparaiso is great for a not-for-profit. People are very giving here. Porter Hospital has also been an amazingly helpful partner.”
As a member of both the Rotary and the United Way, the past President of the Indiana Primary Healthcare Association and an adviser to many medical groups, Beth Wrobel is truly a force in our community. And as someone who enjoys her job of helping others, Beth Wrobel is truly a Valpo Life in the Spotlight.