WASHINGTON — She just goes by “Dr. Lisa,” standing in her white lab coat outside the Giant supermarket in Douglass, the D.C. neighborhood where roughly ¾ of residents remain unvaccinated.
Data suggest Douglass may have one of the lowest vaccination rates in the city, with just 27% of people aged 12 and older vaccinated last week, a figure now rising to 28% this week.
It’s where Dr. Lisa Fitzpatrick chose to set up her latest office Tuesday, on a shopping center sidewalk along Alabama Avenue, Southeast. She stood and waited, with a sign in all caps, “ASK THE DOCTOR.”
She didn’t lift a finger for dozens to stop and see the doctor.
“When we're out here, people will come up and tell you their deepest, darkest, secrets,” Dr. Lisa said in an interview. “They will tell you things, they don't tell their health care provider.”
The infectious disease specialist said her secret lies in showing shoppers, grandmas and girlfriends that she’s willing to leave a sequestered doctor’s office – coming to where they are, with no appointments, and no judgment.
“People sometimes are too ashamed or embarrassed to ask a question they think they should know the answer to, or they don’t want to ask a doctor they already have a history with,” she said.
“But because I don’t have a relationship with them, and they see they can trust me, as a doctor who cares enough to come out into the community, they’re willing to share their questions and concerns.”
Dr. Lisa is the CEO of the startup company, Grapevine Health – a venture she seeks to expand with D.C. grant money. Her goal is to spread accurate health and vaccine information through social grapevines, conversing with people at sidewalk pop-up clinics.
Grapevine offers humans with both medical degrees and empathy, standing by in open street side “offices” to refute viral memes and fake news. A common barrier Dr. Lisa finds is ego, pride in an individual’s decision-making and hesitation to suffer perceived embarrassment from reversing course.
“We can’t shame people into getting vaccinated,” she began. “And people like that, they have to take the ego out of it.”
“If you change your mind about getting vaccinated, don't tell anybody!” she offered. “Just go do it! You can do it in secret, and no one ever has to know you changed your mind, and you got vaccinated.”
Dr. Anna Durbin says it is too early to determine how deadly or contagious these new variants are