Enhancing Youth Health: A Chat with Dr. Kelly Orringer, Co-Medical Director at the Regional Alliance for Healthy Schools

2023-2024 Winter Holiday Closures
December 20, 2023
A Chat with Dr. Stephen Park: Bringing Healthcare to School Communities
April 2, 2024
Dr. Kelly Orringer, MD
Dr. Kelly Orringer, MD

Meet Dr. Kelly Orringer, Co-Medical Director of Regional Alliance for Healthy Schools (RAHS) and a pediatrician dedicated to improving the health and well-being of youth. Dr. Orringer completed her pediatrics residency in 1997 and has been serving patients and families at Michigan Medicine ever since. This past fall, she embarked on a new journey as Co-Medical Director of the Regional Alliance for Healthy Schools (RAHS), an initiative that aims to promote and improve the health and well-being of youth and their families in the region. Recently, Dr. Orringer shared some of her time and insights into her role at RAHS and the impactful work being done to address the unique health challenges faced by school-aged children and adolescents.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself! How long have you been practicing? How long have you been with RAHS? What is the most interesting challenge (so far) that you’ve worked on?

Dr. Orringer: I completed my pediatrics residency in 1997 and have been with Michigan Medicine during and since residency. I joined RAHS 3 years ago and recently became Co-Medical Director. The most interesting challenges have been helping to obtain essential healthcare services for several immigrant and refugee families seen at RAHS-Ypsilanti Community Middle school-based health center, helping them get their vaccines and checkups needed to enroll in school, and also welcoming them to our community.

2. Can you share with us the key initiatives and programs that RAHS at UM Health, Michigan Medicine, is currently focusing on to promote and improve the health and well-being of youth and their families?

Dr. Orringer: RAHS is spearheading so many initiatives! Behavioral health support is a true cornerstone of school-based health centers, and RAHS in particular. Ongoing training for the RAHS team and expansion of behavioral health supports to reach more youth and adolescents is essential. Additionally, RAHS is dedicated to helping families find reliable, evidence-based medical homes to ensure comprehensive healthcare.

3. As Co-Medical Director of RAHS, how do you collaborate with other healthcare professionals outside of RAHS, school district leadership teams, educators, and community stakeholders to address the unique health challenges faced by school-aged children and adolescents? Can you provide an example of a successful collaboration that had a positive impact for your patients?

Dr. Orringer: Collaboration lies at the heart of RAHS’s approach to addressing health challenges in school-aged children and adolescents. While I am still relatively new to my role as Co-Medical Director, I look forward to collaborating with healthcare professionals, school district leaders, educators, and community stakeholders. Dr. Steve Park and Moe Khraizat have excellent connections with the school districts and I look forward to working alongside them and laying the groundwork for impactful collaborations in diverse communities served by RAHS.

4. In your role, you encounter a variety of health issues affecting students. What do you see as the most pressing health concerns for school-aged children today, and how is RAHS actively working to address these issues? Do you see an area(s) where RAHS could improve its services for youth and families?

Dr. Orringer: Both mental and physical health care are vital for students. I love the way RAHS offers integrated behavioral health, which makes it a much more welcoming environment for students and families.

5. How does RAHS contribute to the broader mission and goals of UM Health, Michigan Medicine in terms of community outreach, education, etc., particularly in the realm of adolescent health?

Dr. Orringer: It can be challenging to reach adolescents more than once a year, at best, in a primary care medical home, making RAHS’s presence in schools invaluable. RAHS bridges the gap between annual medical visits by providing continuous supports and partnering with primary care medical homes. The establishment of Youth Advisory Councils (YACs) within schools strengthens outreach and peer education efforts, normalizing healthcare-seeking behaviors on important topics like behavioral health and substance use. The types of partnerships between the schools and our RAHS teams continue to expand.

Dr. Orringer’s dedication to promoting youth health and well-being through RAHS exemplifies the transformative impact of youth-centered and school-based healthcare initiatives. As RAHS continues to evolve and expand its reach, Dr. Orringer’s leadership promises a future where all youth have access to comprehensive healthcare services and support for a brighter, healthier tomorrow.