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'Giving These Women a Choice'

Cutting the ribbon on the Shade Tree's expanded healthcare clinic. Home-page photo: Nurse Bonnie Patterson (photo by Heidi Kyser)
Cutting the ribbon on the Shade Tree's expanded healthcare clinic. Home-page photo: Nurse Bonnie Patterson (photo by Heidi Kyser)

Being on the run from an abusive spouse, forced to take shelter away from your home and possessions, is bad enough. Now add to that: Your kid has a fever. That’s the scenario that Shade Tree Executive Director Linda Perez invoked on December 12, when she cut the ribbon on the expanded health clinic at the shelter for battered women. 

“If they could choose, they would choose not to be here,” said Perez, herself a survivor of domestic violence. 

An accumulation of small hurdles, like where to see a nurse or get Tylenol, can add up to an insurmountable obstacle in starting a new life. Difficulty accessing basic healthcare, at least, is off the list of hurdles.

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The clinic opened 10 years ago in what was a storage closet. It had no windows, or even a sink, recalled Shelley Berkley, CEO and senior provost of Touro University of Nevada, which operates the clinic in cooperation with other community healthcare providers. 

“The beauty of Shade Tree is that we're giving these women a choice, and they're choosing better healthcare for themselves and their children,” Berkley said.

SCA Design and Tutor Perini created the 740-square-foot expansion, which more than doubled the clinic’s size and added several much-needed amenities. Phil Tobin, director of Touro’s School of Physician Assistant Studies, showed visitors around the three small exam bays, private exam room, nurses station, and check-in area. The improved clinic, he said, offers his students valuable opportunities for internships.

“Now we have a consultation room, where we can talk with students about cases,” he said, opening the door to a 10-foot-square space that’s still awaiting furnishings. “We’re looking forward to getting in here and seeing some patients.”

Hours for the clinic aren’t yet settled, but Shade Tree and Touro officials said the goal is to keep it open as much as possible. 

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Desert Companion welcomed Heidi Kyser as staff writer in January 2014. In 2018, she was promoted to senior writer and producer, working for both DC and State of Nevada. She produced KNPR’s first podcast, the Edward R. Murrow Regional Award-winning Native Nevada, in 2020. The following year, she returned her focus full-time to Desert Companion, becoming Deputy Editor, which meant she was next in line to take over when longtime editor Andrew Kiraly left in July 2022.