Not just a clinic: Dr. Traci's House is a community support hub for East Tampa families

Nestled on the corner of Henry and Nebraska avenues, a former office building has been transformed into Dr. Traci’s House, a bright blue structure that will serve as a medical oasis for single parents and other underserved groups in East Tampa. 

The eponymous Dr. Traci Thompson purchased the building in April 2021. Initial funding for construction was provided by the Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corporation and working capital by Raymond James Bank. 

A strong proponent of “dreaming big,” Thompson envisions a clear layout for the clinic, which is still in the planning and construction phases. A kids' reading room, on-site medical lab, computer lab and community garden constitute only part of her plans for the clinic’s future. 

While the clinic will serve the entire community, the model of Dr. Traci’s House prioritizes single parents. 

When compared with Hillsborough County and the state overall, the zip codes 33605, 33610 and 33612 the comprise East Tampa have dramatically higher rates of poverty. According to the most recent census data, children in poverty constitute anywhere from 39% to 51% of children in these zip codes. The state and county average are both approximately 20%. 

The American Psychological Association says that children who experience risk factors associated with poverty are more likely to experience problems associated with their health as adults. These can include obesity, hypertension and other physical ailments as well as increased levels of stress and difficulties with emotional development. 

At her East Tampa clinic, Dr. Traci Thompson envisions a space where anyone can receive medical advice as well as whatever support they need to achieve their dreams.
Thompson herself grew up in poverty, the daughter of a single mother who worked as a nursing assistant in the Alzheimer’s unit of an elder care facility. She entered the work force at the age of 14 to help her mother pay their bills. Especially, as she neared going to college, the telephone bill.

“This is way back before the Internet, e-mail and all this other stuff. They'd have to call you, in terms of interviews for college,” she said. “So I wanted to make sure that we consistently had a phone number.”

It was while working as a mother’s helper to a retired nurse that she was struck with inspiration for her future career. 

“My mom, as a nursing assistant, was the closest thing to the medical field we had in my family,” Thompson says. “To say that I'm going to be a doctor was huge, but I loved school. And that was my escape from living in poverty.”

At 16 years old, Thompson evaluated potential school choices to pursue her undergraduate studies. When she thought of Johns Hopkins University, she set it aside, deciding that she would apply there for medical school instead. 

“Now who knew?” says Thompson. “I didn't know that Johns Hopkins was like, the number one or number two medical school in the country, and that it would be kind of hard. Who knew?” 

She received a full merit scholarship to study medicine at Johns Hopkins after completing her bachelor’s in chemistry at Georgetown University. At the start of her career in managed care, she returned to school -- this time for her master’s in business administration from Howard University. 

Thompson attributes her success in pursuing higher education despite the circumstances of poverty to her strong support system of family and peers, who cheered her on through the power of positive thinking. 

“I've always had that drive that my education was going to be a way for me to get out of my current situation, but it always made me understand just how blessed I was to have so many people in my life to open doors, to allow me to see that it's possible,” she says.

She hopes Dr. Traci’s House will serve as a similar source of support for communities in East Tampa. The convenience of a location where working parents can seek medical treatment and take advantage of educational and nutritional resources while remaining confident that their children are safe is invaluable to long-term community health. Dr. Traci's House sits at the corner of Henry and Nebraska avenues, ready to welcome anyone who seeks medical advice or a supportive community.

At Dr. Traci’s House, students whose parents have not gone through the process of applying for federal financial aid or similar aid resources would have the opportunity to learn. Local entrepreneurs looking for a space to launch their practices would be able to schedule time to use the multipurpose room.  

“I really want it to be a community incubator, sort of hub for people who are just getting started who are just like, ‘I need space,’”  Thompson says. “They need to take a meeting somewhere or something like that. They'll be able to do it.”

Education and community health are at the forefront of Thompson’s mission. The World Health Organization says social factors can be more important in influencing health outcomes than health care or lifestyle choices, and account for between 30% and 55% of health outcomes. 

Dr. Thompson believes that helping one person improve the conditions of their life through education and other resources benefits the community overall. 

“If you show them how to do it, they will be able to show someone else,” she said. “Just by dealing with and helping that one person, that can change the whole trajectory for the whole entire family for generations.”
 

Read more articles by Siham Kharfan.

Siham Kharfan is an undergraduate student of Broadcast Media and International Relations at USF. She was born in Miami, FL and raised in several cities, including Tampa, Oklahoma City, and Beirut. Her goal is to be accepted into law school by 2022. In her free time, she enjoys writing and playing chess.