TU Student Fights for Healthcare Equity in Tulsa - Kendall College of Arts and Sciences

TU Student Fights for Healthcare Equity in Tulsa

Jim Scholl does not wear a cape, but his dedication to ensuring underserved populations are never ignored merits the title of superhero or at least, Healthcare Hero.

Emboldened by a strong sense of justice, psychology doctoral student Scholl (BA ’13, MA ’16) became a trauma specialist and a tireless advocate for gender and sexual minorities. His list of accomplishments is expansive with each item moving Tulsa toward healthcare equity.

“If we address the complex health needs of all populations, not just higher income people, we see reduced overall health costs and better outcomes in schools for everyone,” Scholl said.

As an undergraduate with a heart for service, Scholl became involved with the True Blue Neighbors Initiative by planting trees with Up with Trees. But soon, Scholl realized that being trained as a trauma specialist enabled him to make a unique contribution to several Tulsa nonprofits. Scholl was elected onto the boards of Tulsa Cares and Health Outreach Prevention Education (HOPE). “HOPE provides prevention and education services in sexual health and Tulsa Cares provides the after-care of individuals infected with HIV or AIDS and their families,” he said.

Minority populations suffer when no one is paying attention; and for too long, the public was uneducated and misinformed about HIV and AIDS. Scholl’s philosophy is treatment is prevention. “When people are on medication and being treated for HIV, it stops new infections from occurring,” Scholl said.

Scholl’s connection to the LGBTQ+ community was triggered by research, which empirically demonstrated that gender and sexual minorities experience unique types of stressors that lead to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). “Because of their experiences living in a world where not everyone accepts them and where legislation exists that denies them certain rights, this could both predispose and exacerbate types of psychopathology,” he explained.

Scholl reached out to Oklahomans for Equality to see if he could get involved as a clinician. With the help of a supervising psychologist, Scholl was able to provide counseling to individuals, groups, and families. Now, Scholl serves as an advocate on their board of directors.

His experience with the LGBTQ+ populations shaped Scholl’s dissertation topic, which explores predicting PTSD in the transgender and gender nonconforming populations. Because they are more susceptible to increased rates of trauma, sexual assault, neglect, and abuse, Scholl’s hope is to “identify ways we can modify existing treatments to specifically cater to LGBTQ+ needs,” he said.

Before the #metoo movement, Scholl was concerned with advocacy alliance and sexual violence prevention on the TU campus. He was part of an interdisciplinary team, which invited a prevention program, Bringing in the Bystander, to campus. “We know that even when a terrible violent incident is occurring, oftentimes people will come up with ways to justify not stepping in and helping,” Scholl said. This program trained students to identify a problematic situation and how to effectively take measures to stop it.

As a member of the inaugural Albert Schweitzer Fellowship class, Scholl worked to establish a partnership between Community Health Connection and TU True Blue Neighbors Behavioral Health Clinic. His goal was to create an integrated care team to simultaneously assess primary care and mental health needs. “Australia and the UK have seen incredible outcomes integrating their services, but Oklahoma has not embraced this model yet,” he said.

Oklahoma tends to trail behind nationally in terms of healthcare, and Scholl believes a “lack of consideration for the bigger picture” is what keeps Oklahoma unhealthy and poorly ranked. “If we spend more money on education and healthcare, we are going to have a more educated population that will be able to open new businesses and be innovators,” he explained.

He asserts that Oklahoma’s lack of preventative services and cuts to Medicaid will lead to increased incarceration, depression, suicide and issues in school. However, Tulsa is determined to rethink healthcare, and a number of health leaders including Scholl have come together to address bio, psycho and social needs of underserved communities.

In the future, Scholl wants to use his experience in collaborative community efforts to lead the minority healthcare cause. “I would like to be in leadership or administration and find ways at a systemic level to truly change how we deliver healthcare,” he said.

Although Scholl is missing a cape, soon he will be donning a white doctor’s jacket; and once he has the uniform, watch him thrive.