June 28, 2024

June Volunteer Spotlight: Dr. Julia Riley

CommunityHealth shines the Volunteer Spotlight on Dr. Julia Riley during June

As a dermatologist with Northwestern, Dr. Riley has been an attending physician at CommunityHealth since 2019.

Not only does Dr. Riley volunteer, but she also brings residents with her to the Northwestern dermatology clinics, even spearheaded the training of medical students in dermatology throughout 2023.

She is a key mentor in handling referrals, biopsies, and consultations for patients.

For her committed leadership, Dr. Riley was awarded Preceptor of the Year for the 2023 Volunteer of the Year Awards.

Lear more about how Dr. Riley helps make quality health care for all a reality…

In a few sentences, tell us more about yourself and your background.

I was born outside of Boston in Newton, MA, the youngest of four girls. I went to College at the University of Michigan where I majored in Brain Behavior and Cognitive Science and sang a capella. I then did medical school at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine and residency in Dermatology at Northwestern. After graduating, I joined the faculty at Northwestern in 2020. Now, I serve as the Assistant Director of the Center for Ethnic Skin and Hair, the Director of the Hidradenitis Suppurativa Clinic and the Medical Student Clerkship Director. I also work part-time at the Jesse Brown VA hospital where I work with residents.

What is your favorite memory from your time with CommunityHealth?

My favorite memory at the Community Health Clinic was on a Saturday morning when a patient presented for the evaluation of possible warts on the hands. One of our residents evaluated the patient and determined that they had an uncommon type of skin growth that often mimics warts and can be associated with a genetic condition. We ultimately diagnosed her with this rare genetic condition and were able to have the patient seen at Northwestern for further genetic testing. It was rewarding to be able to help connect this patient to care that may have implications for their long-term health and to have a resident be able to make the diagnosis.

Why and how did you begin volunteering at CommunityHealth?

I first began volunteering at CHC as a Dermatology resident. I was impressed by the structure and organization of the clinic and enjoyed serving the patient population. When I joined the faculty at Northwestern, I knew I wanted to become more involved and I began coordinating our involvement in the clinic and doing teledermatology. Over the past two years, we have also added on a medical student longitudinal program, where four students are selected to volunteer throughout the year and work on a quality improvement project.

What is something you’ve learned from volunteering at CommunityHealth?

We can learn so much when we engage medical student volunteers. I’ve been very impressed with the initiative our medical students have taken at making improvements to our clinic flow and procedures. They often think of ideas I had not yet considered as they can view things with a fresh lens. This ultimately improves care for our patients.

What is advice you would give to a new volunteer at CommunityHealth?

I find it helpful to learn about the other services offered at CHC and connect with other providers. We can all learn from each other and can serve our patients best when we understand how to navigate the healthcare system.

Outside of volunteering at CommunityHealth, how do you like to spend your free time?

“When I’m not working, I spend my free time with my husband, my son and my dog. We love taking walks on the 606 and finding new coffee shops in the city.”

As the largest volunteer-based free health center in the nation, serving the uninsured, underserved, and undocumented, CommunityHealth is more than a free clinic but a true patient-centered medical home.

Health care providers, both clinical and nonclinical, devoted to quality health care for all are encouraged to apply.