Exalta Health Nears One-Year Anniversary of Pediatric Services Launch

For Exalta Health, providing holistic health care has been an important focus since the organization’s founding as Health Intervention Services in 1996.

New president Dan Takens, who came to Exalta in February 2020 after three decades in public education, including the final 11 as superintendent of Byron Center Public Schools, says that focus is one of the things that attracted him to the organization.

“Exalta Health knows that our health does not exist in isolation from our environment,” he says. “So, we treat the whole person within the context of his or her family and social environment. We know that spiritual, behavioral, and physical health are interconnected.”

Because of this holistic approach, Exalta Health made a big commitment in June 2019 to add services at its 2060 South Division Avenue location for children, adding both pediatric medicine and pediatric dental services to the many options it provides for adults. The expansion was made possible in part through the generosity of the Carls Foundation, Delta Dental Foundation, the Zondervan Foundation and Crossroads Bible Church.

Pediatric medical care includes immunizations, sports physicals and more, while pediatric dental care includes a child’s first dental checkup, fluoride, sealants, stainless steel crowns and more.

We recognized that many of our families were struggling finding pediatric care.  Many offices have limited their Medicaid patients and therefore it is difficult to get an appointment.  Also, many of our families are looking for a place where the entire family can be seen. We work to schedule multiple family members on the same day to prevent several trips to the clinic to reduce days lost of work.    

Dr. Laura VanderMolen serves as the Medical Director and primary doctor for many of the organization’s patients, and she recruits and provides oversight for the volunteer physicians and nurses at the clinic, more than 200 volunteers annually!  Exalta Health’s staff physician, Chris Shoemaker is board certified in Family Practice and is leading our initiative to see pediatrics.

Board certified in Internal Medicine, VanderMolen states pediatrics is about much more than just shots and growth charts. VanderMolen and Shoemaker are concerned with the child’s entire spectrum of development, including physical, mental, social, spiritual and emotional health.

“That is really a description of the Exalta Health model,” she says, “and reinforces why we think pediatric care is a critical part of what we do. The reality that we see at Exalta Health is that socioeconomic status is a powerful predictor of health. Poverty collides with health every day. Low-income households have to spend their money on housing, food and transportation. Healthcare costs are not considered a basic need, and healthcare at every age suffers as a result.”

VanderMolen says the expansion last summer into pediatric medical and dental services was a direct result of numerous conversations with patients over the years on the part of Exalta Health physicians, nurses, dentists, hygienists, social workers and more.

“Parents have wanted these services for some time,” she says, “so being able to launch these new efforts last summer was a huge blessing for us as an organization.”

On the dental side of things, Exalta Health dental director Daniel Armstrong began volunteering for the organization in June 2013 and became a staff dentist later that year before being appointed dental director in 2015.

He says there is more scientific evidence than ever before linking oral health with overall health and chronic illness and that providing high-quality dental care to children is a critical part of keeping people healthy as teens and then adults.

“We would often see children waiting in the dental treatment room while we worked on their parents or grandparents,” he says. “We had assumed that most of these children already had dental homes, but the reality was that many of them did not, so I am now glad that we welcome patients of all ages in keeping with our holistic and family-oriented approach.”

Armstrong adds that lack of access to timely, appropriate and affordable dental care continues to be a crisis in the U.S. and that recent surveys in Michigan have shown that people, including in West Michigan, many of them children, cannot get dental care in their own communities.

Tooth decay, adds Armstrong, is the most common childhood illness, affecting nearly 60 percent of all children, and state surveys have shown that children as young as third grade in Michigan have untreated dental disease at 30-40% rates.

Exalta Health services for all ages include:

  • Medical Care (family practice, gynecology, internal medicine, urgent care)
  • Dental Care (hygiene, oral health education, exams, x-rays, extractions, root canals)
  • Optometry (free glasses, reduced cost lenses)
  • Diabetic Clinic
  • Women’s Health Clinic
  • Prescription assistance
  • Spiritual care, comfort and counseling
  • Bilingual behavioral health treatment and referral for depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders

“Our mission is to reflect the spirit of Christ by providing compassionate, accessible health care,” says Takens. “Our vision is to be part of a collaborative community where accessible and quality healthcare promotes wellness for all.”

Exalta Health welcomes new patients.  For those who are at or below 250% of the Federal Poverty Index we have a sliding fee scale. Please call 616-475-8446 to learn more.