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 | By Matt Riedl

A ‘Pastoral’ Approach to Health Care

Ann Arbor medical clinic offers authentically Catholic primary care

It’s not uncommon for someone to try to compartmentalize life.

Work life goes into one compartment, family life into another. Same with hobbies and, for some, faith life.

Doctor William Chavey II (pictured) was no different – a 25-year member of the University of Michigan Department of Family Medicine and a Catholic, sure.

That is, until 2014, when he and two other Catholic health care professionals in Ann Arbor started a small practice called Emmaus Health Partners – “an experiment in Catholic health care,” he dubs it.

The aim? To provide holistic care for the whole person, rooted firmly in the Catholic faith.

“There is a pastoral, loving, service-oriented approach that I think our faith should give us,” he says. “Here we’re prompted to be more intentional about it. We’re trying to be true to our faith and our beliefs, but also, in a pastoral way … trying to serve patients.”

For decades, the thought of “Catholic health care” typically referred primarily to large hospital systems like Trinity or Ascension, Chavey says. But in recent years, more faithful physicians have opened primary care practices for patients seeking out medicine that matches their faith.

The idea of opening Emmaus Health Partners came to Chavey after years of discernment. He said he loved working with the University of Michigan (and still serves there as a professor emeritus) but over the years pined for an opportunity to practice his faith more openly while at work. 

Chavey, a parishioner at St. Thomas the Apostle in Ann Arbor, pitched the idea while he was serving on the board at ArborVitae Women’s Center (the pregnancy resource center now known as ArborWoman).

The practice has grown substantially over the past nine years to include three family medicine practitioners, two internists, one pediatrician and five behavioral health specialists. A few years ago, Emmaus Health Partners merged with ArborWoman to offer OB/GYN care.

So what does it mean to integrate, intentionally, the faith into a medical practice while still being respectful of all patients’ religious backgrounds?

“The interface, for us, between faith and medicine is built on our belief that every patient we see is made in the image and likeness of God,” he says. “If you look at our name at Emmaus Health, the story of the road to Emmaus is the disciples were walking with Jesus and didn’t recognize him. And so we need to recognize him in every patient we’re seeing, in every colleague and co-worker we have.”

At Emmaus Health, new patients fill out the standard medical history paperwork, but also a “spiritual history” document which asks three questions: “Is religion important to you?” “What is your faith?” and “Would you ever want prayer to be part of your care plan, if appropriate?”

Emmaus Health Partners is located at 24 Frank Lloyd Wright Drive, Lobby L, Suite L2300, in what Chavey refers to as one of two “Catholic enclaves” at the sprawling Domino’s Farms office park. Its neighbor tenants include the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, Renewal Ministries, Legatus and the Ave Maria Foundation. 

The clinic is currently accepting new patients and takes most major insurance providers.