Project Access Durham

a community-based network of clinicians and medical institutions cooperating to donate needed and efficient care to the uninsured, low-income patients of Durham county. In first efforts, its product will consist of specialty services provided to patients whose care is centered at Lincoln Community Health Center.


Project Access of Durham County, seeks a full-time Executive Director to help shape an organization that links uninsured patients with volunteer providers and other critical healthcare services. A graduate degree in a health-related field and excellent communication, organizational, and supervisory skills are required. Competitive salary and benefits. For more a more detailed job description:

Website includes:

  • A job description for the Executive Director of Project Access of Durham County;
  • A short history of Project Access in Durham;
  • Q and A about Project Access of Durham County.

Send cover letter and resume by March 6th to: PO Box 27167, Raleigh, NC 27611; or Fax – 919-833-2023; or Email  Attn: Project Access Executive Director Search.


Frequently Asked Questions

(for & by clinicians)

What is Project Access?


Project Access (PA) is an organized system of charitable health care covering the spectrum from prevention through acute and chronic treatment, provided at no charge to low income uninsured people, on a voluntary basis, by physicians and other health care practitioners, hospitals, laboratories, pharmacies, and other health service providers.  This system, implemented in many communities around the US, is based on the original Project Access model developed in Buncombe County, NC in 1995.  

Though PA is only a partial solution to the inefficiencies and inequities of our current health care system, in many communities it is helping to improve health and reducing costs by coordinating timely care and follow-up, reducing inappropriate utilization of emergency departments, etc.

Why is this needed here?

There are an estimated 20,000 low income (income at less than 200% of federal poverty level) uninsured (and not eligible for Medicaid, NC Health Choice, or Medicare) in Durham.  Each year, a significant number of these people find it difficult or impossible to obtain appropriate medical services when needed.

I already donate “charity care” through accepting reduced fees, etc.  Why should I do more?

Project Access is NOT intended to discourage any individual or entity from continuing the charitable work they are already doing.  It is hoped that PA will build upon existing services; address unmet needs; enhance coordination, timeliness, continuity, efficiency, and comprehensiveness of care; and will provide a system to track and to recognize donated care.

Will primary care physicians be involved?

In order for a patient to receive services under Project Access, they must have a “primary care home,” with a primary care provider who refers them for services such as specialty consultations and coordinates care.  Primary care providers will assure that referrals are medically appropriate; and, to the best of their ability, will determine that patients are motivated to keep their referral appointments and adhere to recommendations. Primary care providers must be available for follow-up/coordination of care after referrals.

Durham has a good primary care “safety net” in Lincoln Community Health Center (LCHC) and its affiliated sites (Lyon Park and Walltown clinics).  These sites already provide primary care to many low-income patients, most of whom lack any insurance.  However, accessing timely specialty consultations, surgery, hospitalization, and other services for these patients has been challenging.  Thus, the initial focus of PA will be on providing access to specialty care for patients of LCHC.  It is envisioned that, if all goes well, within the first year of operation, PA will potentially be extended to include patients from other sites, including Durham’s Homeless Clinic, TROSA, Durham Rescue Mission, and both private and Duke-affiliated primary care practices.

Who will the program serve?

Durham city or county residents (residing in Durham for at least 6 months) who lack health insurance, and are not eligible for Medicaid, NC Health Choice, or Medicare, whose household income is at or below 200% of federal poverty guidelines, and who attest that they lack sufficient assets (savings, stock, bonds, property, etc.) to pay for their health care expenses.  

Initially, all participants must be current patients of Lincoln Community Health Center (or its satellite clinics). They must be established with a primary care provider at LCHC, must have visited with their LCHC primary care provider within 30 days of the referral request, and must follow up with their PCP for continuing, coordinated care.  

How will eligibility be determined?

If patients are identified by their primary care provider as needing specialty/diagnostic/ hospital services, that provider may refer them to PA for eligibility screening.  Patients will be screened for eligibility at Lincoln Health Center or affiliated LCHC sites by staff of the Durham County Department of Social Services.  Eligibility will be reviewed every 12 months.  

As the program expands to serve patients in primary care “homes” other than Lincoln, other sites may be identified for eligibility screening.

Will this program “overwhelm” Lincoln’s already overburdened system?

It is not anticipated that the existence of PA will drive large numbers of new patients toward LCHC.  Health care practitioners will be educated that the program is intended to serve the needs of already-established LCHC patients.  It is also anticipated, based on Buncombe County’s experience, that primary care at LCHC will become more efficient as less time/fewer visits are taken up with trying to arrange specialty consultation for patients and as more definitive evaluation and management plans can be accomplished earlier in the course of an illness.  It is anticipated that primary care providers will routinely receive feedback and education from participating specialist consultants about how to optimally manage common conditions and utilize consultative services most appropriately.

How will patients be enrolled?

Project Access staff will be responsible for enrolling patients, educating them regarding their responsibilities under PA (for instance, keeping appointments or canceling them with sufficient notice, following medical advice), and presenting them with membership cards which are good for 12 months.  

There has historically been a very high rate of “no-shows” for Lincoln patients keeping specialty consultation appointments; will this be any different?

In Buncombe County the “no-show” rate for specialty consultations for Project Access patients is less than 5%! Staff there attribute this to thorough education/orientation of patients regarding their obligation to keep appointments and consequences for not doing so (3 missed appoint-ments leads to dismissal from the program), reminder calls, and assistance with transportation as needed.

What about the Emergency Department?

PA patients will be educated about appropriate ED utilization and encouraged to contact their primary provider first when acute (but not obviously life-threatening) conditions arise.  If a patient is referred to the Emergency Department by their primary provider, then PA will provide free care for this visit.  If a patient presents to the Emergency Department and has not called their primary provider first, then PA will provide free care for the visit only if a reasonable person would consider the patient’s complaint to be appropriate for emergency department care, as determined by PA staff.

How much service am I being asked to commit?

It will be the practitioner’s choice how much care to donate.  However, we are requesting that participants make a yearly pledge to provide 12 "episodes of care." (An "episode of care" may be one visit or procedure, or several, as needed to diagnose and treat a particular condition.  Each “episode of care” may extend over no more than 3 months, though additional 3 month referrals for the same condition may be authorized as appropriate.) Given the nature of problems addressed by different specialties (e.g. acute, diagnostic, or preventive services) opposed to chronic disease management, it might make sense for some practitioners to commit to more, or to fewer “episodes of care.”

How easily can I change my level of commitment or even drop out if I don’t wish to participate?

Since this is a volunteer service, providers may change their level of commitment at any time.  However, we of course request that providers work with PA staff to assure that patients currently under care are not compromised.  

How will service commitments and utilization be tracked?

Software developed for PA will be used to track volunteer commitments and utilization.

Providers will be asked to complete a standard HCFA 1500 claim form, indicating diagnoses and CPT code.  While no actual charges will be generated or paid, this form will be processed by PrimaHealth to track and report utilization and the “value” of all donated services.

Who is contributing services?

Physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners from across the community are all being recruited to volunteer their time.  Those donating time will be publicly recognized for their contributions.

Duke, Durham Regional, and North Carolina Specialty Hospitals will all be donating hospital services; including inpatient stays, diagnostic and ancillary services, and operating room charges.  LabCorp will donate lab studies.  Negotiations are in process with diagnostic imaging companies.  The success of this project hinges on a high level of participation.  If everyone does their part, no one has to do too much.  In Buncombe County, more than 90% of physicians participate in PA.

Where will patients be seen?

Initially, all patients must have as their primary care home one of the Lincoln sites. Specialists may see patients in their own offices.  If they prefer, it may be possible for them to do their PA consultations at another location, such as Lincoln Community Health Center.

How much paperwork will be involved in my seeing these patients?

Every effort will be made to keep the paperwork from being burdensome.  As always, accurate medical records will need to be maintained.  A standard HCFA 1500 claim form will need to be completed to assist with utilization tracking.  Consultation reports will be sent to referring providers, as usual.  

How will program participants receive medications?

Outpatients will receive most-commonly prescribed medications from the Lincoln Community Health Center pharmacy or from the Duke pharmacy (for patients seeing a Duke-affiliated specialist) for a modest co-pay (probably $5).  Limited funding will be available to help pay for necessary medications not available on Lincoln’s formulary.  Patient assistance programs will be utilized as appropriate.

Inpatient prescription medications will be filled by NC Specialty Hospital or Duke University Health System.

How will patients get referrals?

Patients will be referred for specialist care from their “primary care home” (see above) Primary care practitioners or specialists may refer PA patients for hospitalization, for diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, or emergency department services.  Specialty consultations will be scheduled via the PA central office, which will select consultants in rotation from the list of those participating.  Each referral to a specialist consultant will authorize service for up to a 3-month period of time.  Care beyond that period of time will require a new referral.  Patients will present their PA cards at the time of presenting for service.

What about language barriers, transportation issues?

PA will employ bilingual staff to assist those with limited abilities in English. Transportation needs will also be addressed by the program.  A chronic disease/care management component will also be in place through contracting with an entity with expertise in this area (LATCH).  Essential patient education services will be included (for example: smoking cessation, healthy nutrition, weight management, physical fitness).

How will labs or imaging studies be obtained?

Physicians and other participating providers will order lab and radiology studies according to normal practice.  Radiology services are provided at outpatient hospital facilities and through Durham Diagnostics (pending agreement). Outpatient reference laboratory services are provided at outpatient hospital facilities.  In addition, LabCorp has agreed to provide no cost laboratory testing for program participants treated by participating physicians.

How is this being organized, managed, and funded? Will it last?

Project Access Durham County is being incorporated as a non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization, with full-time paid administrative staff, including a full-time Executive Director and 2 – 3 additional staff to handle patient eligibility certification, enrollment, and orientation/education; these staff will also assist with provider recruitment and recognition and with tracking of provider commitments.  

The Durham-Orange County Medical Society will play a leadership role in provider recruitment and recognition; with assistance from Duke Health System/PDC; Durham Regional Hospital medical staff; North Carolina Specialty Hospital; and the Durham Academy of Medicine, Dentistry, and Pharmacy. PrimaHealth will track commitments, referrals, and services provided.  PA will contract with LATCH, a program with demonstrated expertise in this area, for care coordination/disease management services and for supportive services like translation and coordination of transportation.

PA will be governed by a 26-member board representing stakeholders from across the community (community and university-employed practitioners, hospitals, Lincoln Community Health Center, the Health Department, Durham Center (mental health), Durham-Orange Medical Society, consumers, etc.).  At a minimum, 8 of the Board members, and probably more, will be physicians/physician assistants.  

Major start-up and continuing funding will be provided by Durham County government.  Duke University Health System will maintain current levels of operating support to LCHC in addition to its contributions via PA.  Support of charitable foundations will be sought (a grant application has been submitted to the Duke Endowment).  A significant Board function will be annual fundraising.

This program has thrived in Buncombe County since 1996, largely because of broad involvement, leadership, and support from health care providers and from representatives of all stakeholder groups across the community.  

Are there liability concerns for providers?

Duke-employed practitioners participating in Project Access with the approval of their Department chair will be covered by their Duke liability insurance.  Medical Mutual and probably other medical liability carriers will cover their subscribers for this charitable activity.

In addition, NC General Statute 90-21.16 protects from liability health care professionals who render services at no charge to patients referred by nonprofit community health centers or nonprofit free clinics.

If physicians have problems or concerns, who will address them?

The Executive Director of Project Access, the Project Access governing board, and a medical advisory group of health care practitioners will be available to address concerns.

Our community is already providing a great deal of care to the low-income uninsured.  How will this improve upon that? Aren’t those who most need care getting it under the current system? Is this really needed?

PA is not simply about providing care to the uninsured, or to the uninsured who are critically ill.  The focus is on providing timely, coordinated, and appropriate care.  This will reduce unnecessary Emergency Department utilization and other inefficiencies, allow earlier application of appropriate interventions, and lead to improved outcomes.

This sounds like a good program, but the number of uninsured people Project Access will have the capacity to serve will be only a minority of those in need – is it really worthwhile?

Project Access will only be a partial, and perhaps only a temporary solution.  But we believe it will provide important help to a significant number of those in greatest need.  In addition, the detailed information gained from tracking of utilization and costs will be very helpful as we look to others beyond health care providers – to businesses, insurance companies, state government, etc. – to step up and help contribute to the resolution of this pervasive societal problem.





In 2006 four local groups – the Partnership for a Healthy Durham, Durham CAN (Congregations, Associations, and Neighborhoods), Latino Community Credit Union, and Durham Health Partners – came together to advocate for improved healthcare for the low-income uninsured population in Durham County. They began researching potential local solutions to this problem and bringing together the local agencies, organizations, and leaders who would need to be involved.

Several public events were held, including:

  • CAN polled 2000 community members, identifying health coverage as a top priority
  • Duke Health System’s "Summit on Health Disparities"
  • Partnership for Healthy Durham’s "Cover the Uninsured Week" rally

In December 2006 these community groups convened all the local stakeholders to commit to designing and implementing a local program to expand healthcare to Durham’s low-income uninsured population. All agreed at the beginning that this is a national, or at least statewide, problem, but we cannot afford to wait for those slow processes to create real change for our neighbors in need. Durham has too many resources to wait; we can make something happen here and now that will hopefully drive change at higher levels.

One of the results of this process is the imminent beginning of "Project Access of Durham County." This is a program that will provide specialty care to uninsured Durham residents living under 200% of the federal poverty level. Many of these people have access to primary care through Lincoln Community Health Center or other "safety-net" healthcare providers, but specialty care is a challenge. For example, if one of these patients needs a cardiology (heart doctor) consultation and echocardiogram (a test for how well the heart is performing), Lincoln and other primary care providers may not be able to help them.

Project Access of Durham County (PADC) will create a system by which physician specialists can volunteer to provide this needed care at no charge to the patient. PADC has emerged out of this extraordinary process of commitment from:

The Partnership for a Healthy Durham

Durham CAN

NC Institute of Medicine

Latino Community Credit Union

Durham County Government

Duke University Health System

Lincoln Community Health Center

The Durham Orange Medical Society

Prima Health

NC Specialty Hospital

The Durham Academy of Medicine, Dentistry, and Pharmacy

Unaffiliated Clinicians practicing in Durham Co

Meeting, December 15, 2006

NC Senator Bob Atwater

MaryAnn Black, Vice President of Community Relations, Duke University Health Systems, Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce

Reyn Bowman, President and CEO, Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau

Rev. Dr. BA Angeloe Burch, Sr, Access to Care Committee, Partnership for a Healthy Durham

Diane Catotti, Durham City Council

Lewis Cheek, Durham Board of County Commissioners

Dr. Alex Cho, Durham CAN

Dr. Herbert Reynolds Davis, Nehemiah Christian Center, Chair, Durham CAN Strategy Team

Mat Despard, Access to Care Committee, Durham CAN

Dr. Victor Dzau, Chancellor for Health Affairs and Dean of the Medical School, Duke University Health Systems

Dr. Howard Eisenson, Secretary/Treasurer, Durham Orange Medical Society

David Farrell, President, People Designs, Access to Care Committee

Dr. William Fulkerson, CEO, Duke Hospital

Dr. Gary Greenberg, Access to Care Committee, Durham CAN Health Action Team

Sam Haithcock, Director, Durham County Department of Social Services

NC Representative Larry Hall

Patrick Hannah, Vice President for Governmental Affairs, Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce

Phil Harewood, Chief Financial Officer, Lincoln Community Health Center

Gayle Harris, Representative for Durham Health Partners and Partnership for a Healthy Durham

Sharon Hirsch, Manager of Communications, Durham County Department of Social Services

Dr. Peter Jacobi, Prima Health

Sean Kerns, Vice President for Strategic Affairs, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NC

Brian Letourneau, Director, Durham County Health Department

Cheryl Lloyd, Chair, Partnership for a Healthy Durham; Director, Cooperative Extension

Kathleen Loucks, Durham CAN Health Action Team

NC Representative Paul Luebke

David McQuaid, CEO, Durham Regional Hospital

Adam Michaels, Program Manager, Office of the President & CEO DUHS

Kenneth Morris, Senior VP, CFO & Treasurer, DUHS Corporate Finance

Paul Newman, CEO, Duke PDC

Fr. Jacek Orzechowski, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church

Jenni Owen, Associate in Research, Center for Child and Family Policy

Ivan Parra, Representative for Durham CAN

Luis Pastor, Representative for Latino Community Credit Union

Ellen Reckhow, Chair, Durham Board of County Commissioners

Laurie Robbins, Strategic Development and Planning, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NC

Mike Ruffin, Durham County Manager

Dr. Hank Scherich, President, Measurement Incorporated, Inc.

Dr. Kevin Schulman, Duke Clinical Research Institute; Latino Community Credit Union

Dr. Pam Silberman (moderator), President and CEO, NC Institute of Medicine

Bill Spencer, General Manager, Hilton RTP

Gina Upchurch, Representative for Access to Care Committee of the Partnership for a Healthy Durham

Ana Valverde, Duke Clinical Research Institute, Latino Community Credit Union

Rev. Dr. Daphne Wiggins, Assistant Pastor, Union Baptist Church

Dr. Evelyn Schmidt, Executive Director, Lincoln Community Health Center

Dr. Duncan Yaggy, Chief Planning Officer, DUHS




Board of Directors

One (1) representative of Duke University Health System ("DUHS") to be appointed by the Chief Executive Officer of DUHS;

Duncan Yaggy, PhD
Chief Planning Officer, Duke University Health System

One (1) representative from Durham Regional Hospital ("DRH") or Durham County Hospital Corporation ("DCHC") to be appointed by the Chair of DCHC with the advice of the CEO of DRH

Greg Damron, CPA
Chief Financial Officer, Durham Regional Hospital

One (1) representative appointed by the North Carolina Specialty Hospital ("NCSH")

Randi Pisko, RN, BSN, MHSA
Chief Executive Officer, NC Specialty Hospital

Two (2) representatives appointed by the Board of Directors of the Lincoln Community Health Center ("LCHC"), at least one of whom shall be a primary care provider

Evy Schmidt, MD
Chief Executive Officer 

Forrest Daniels
Chief Operating Officer

Three (3) representatives appointed by the Durham/Orange County Medical Society ("DOMS"), at least two (2) of whom shall be physicians or licensed clinical practitioners, and at least one (1) of which shall be a community based physician or practitioner not employed by DUHS or the Duke Faculty Practice Plan ("Duke FPP")

Howard Eisenson, MD
Director, Duke Diet and Fitness Center

Charles Cooperberg, MD
Durham Nephrology Assoc., PA

Andy Barada, MD
Past President, Durham-Orange Medical Society

Four (4) representatives appointed by the Duke Faculty Practice Plan

Ted Pappas, MD
Executive Medical Director, Duke Private Diagnostic Clinic

Rex McCallum, MD
Associate Medical Director, Duke PDC

Paul R. Newman
Executive Director, Duke PDC

Nelson Chao, MD
Chief, Division of Cellular Therapy

One (1) representative appointed by the Durham Academy of Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmacy ("DAMDP")

Harry Lightfoot, MD

One (1) representative appointed by Durham Congregations, Associations and Neighborhoods ("Durham CAN")

Gary Greenberg

One (1) representative appointed by the Access to Care Committee of the Partnership for a Healthy Durham

Gina Upchurch, RPh, MPH
Executive Director, Senior PHARMAssist

One (1) representative appointed by the Durham County Health Department ("DCHD")

Gayle Harris, RN
Durham County Health Department

One (1) representative appointed by Durham County Department of Social Services (“DSS”)

Sam Haithcock
Durham County Department of Social Services

One (1) representative from Durham County government appointed by the Durham County Commissioners

Commissioner Lewis Cheek, JD
Durham Board of County Commissioners

One (1) representative appointed by The Durham Center

Ann K. Oshel

One (1) representative that is a licensed dentist who is a resident of Durham County or who has a principal practice location in Durham County

Vincent Allison, DDS

One (1) representative that is a licensed pharmacist who is a resident of Durham County or who practices principally in Durham County

Carolyn Robbins, Pharm D, RPh, CDE
Dir. Pharmacy, Lincoln Community Health Ctr

One (1) representative appointed by the Latino Community Credit Union

Susan Denman, PhD, RN, FNP

One (1) representative appointed by the El Centro Hispano of Durham Co.

Pilar Rocha, RD
Board Chair, El Centro Hispano

One (1) individual eligible for Project Access participation, based on insurance status and income.  

Four (4) representatives who shall be at large members, and who shall be appointed by the Board of the Corporation and who shall be leaders active in business enterprise, churches or other faith based organizations or other community groups or organizations ("At large Directors").  At least one of these at large Directors shall represent business interests and at least one shall be a leader in the faith community.

Faith leader:
Rev. Herbert Davis, M.Div., Nehemiah Christian Center Church of God in Christ in Durham

Business leader:
Hank Scherich, President, Measurement, Inc.  

At large:
Eugene Dauchert, JD, Moore & Van Allen PLLC, former Chair of the Board of Durham Regional Hospital

At large:
MaryAnn Black, MSW, LCSW, Associate Vice President for Community Relations, Duke University Health System