Doctor William Powers built an LGBT+ friendly medical clinic following the death of his Guinness World Record winning cats due to his massage chair bursting into flames.
On November 12th 2017, Dr Powers’ massage chair caught fire and spread throughout his home. As he tried to find his cats and escape the burning building, he collapsed twice from smoke inhalation.
After the fire, Dr Powers suffered debilitating mental health problems and lost his job at a clinic as a result. Speaking to Medscape, he said, “I just could not accept the level of grief I had. It broke me.”
Over the span of 15 months, Dr Powers and his wife Dr Lauren Powers traveled across America, got four new cats, and played video games. During that period, former patients got in touch and urged him to get back to work. He said, “They convinced me, like, we need you. You have a purpose.”
When Dr Powers’ psychiatrist cleared him to return to work, he set about creating his “dream clinic” with a focus on LGBT+ healthcare. The clinic was designed to include video game consoles in the waiting room and his hypoallergenic cats roaming the office as therapy animals.
In February 2019, Powers Family Medicine received more than 1,000 patients despite people warning that the clinic was too unconventional. 95% of patients were members of the LGBT+ community.
Many LGBT+ people have had negative experiences with healthcare, resulting in patients feeling nervous and anxious in approaching medical professionals. Dr Powers created his LGBT+ friendly medical clinic with this in mind.
Dr Powers said: “I’ll walk into a room and there’s perceptible anxiety. So I’ll grab one of the cats. It completely alters their perception. For me, they are immersive worlds I can kind of lose myself in for a while, and I can forget about my grief. They were literally what stopped me from going completely insane after the fire.”
He further stated, “I have a lot more empathy for my trans patients who may have lost their family, their job, their stuff, their car, their stability, and their feeling of safety and trust in society. I know what that’s like now.”
Powers Family Medicine clinic is “fiercely protective” of patient privacy. When patient’s are checking in, they receive a video game character figuring and the character’s name is called out when it is that person’s turn. Members of staff are offered a paid mental health day off.
Though Dr Powers still struggles with his PTSD, he continues to push beyond this grim tragedy in order to create a space where LGBT+ people can feel comfortable seeking medical advice.
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