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College of Nursing

Neighborhood Nurses - Patrick Hawkins

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When the Flint Water Crisis dominated news headlines less than a decade ago, Dr. Patrick Hawkins, DNP, RN, NP-C, ANP, had already been providing health care for the city’s residents for more than 20 years. 


Not only by working as a provider, but also as their neighbor, Hawkins saw up close how the people of Flint were impacted by the lead-tainted water supply. He took action by helping organize free community health fairs to bring lead screenings, educational materials and other services to hard-to-reach populations in the city.


Since the water crisis, and even before it, members of the community have worked together to restore community vitality. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, people gathered on the brick roads downtown for various festivals. From the moment he moved to Flint in the mid 1990s, Hawkins said he felt welcomed in his “adopted” hometown.


Born and raised in Louisiana, Hawkins relocated to be closer to his wife’s family after serving in the U.S. Army and working as a combat medic. Some of the mentors he had went on to nursing school, which made an impression on him. 


“You can be a vessel to assist people and I thought that was an honorable thing,” he said. “The more you know, the more you can do and assist.” 


Hawkins describes his path as non-traditional. He earned his Associate of Science in Nursing from the State University of New York, Albany and later his Bachelor of Science at 32-years-old. In 2004, he graduated from the Michigan State University College of Nursing with a Master of Science in Nursing in the Adult Gerontology Nursing Practitioner Program. 


“It’s an honor and a weight that people trust you with such a valuable possession — their life." —Patrick Hawkins

One of the first members of his family to go to college and to work in healthcare, Hawkins said he has a sense of accomplishment, but not in the traditional way one might think. 


“It makes you aware of whose shoulders you're standing on,” he said. “Furthering my education was stressed upon. I wasn’t looking at it like, ‘it’s great for me.’ It’s very humbling.”


Hawkins is a nurse practitioner who specializes in nephrology. He has also taught future nurses as a part-time faculty member for the college since 2012. 


“It’s an honor and a weight that people trust you with such a valuable possession — their life,” he said. “The college has been steadfast in that approach. This is a person and not just a diagnosis, which is a wonderful thing.” 


Working in healthcare for three decades, Hawkins said at the core of nursing is art and science. The two continue to evolve.


“It requires you to stay abreast of the latest changes and expansion of knowledge and evidence-based practice,” he said. “I have patients who have multiple complex medical conditions, so the margin for error is zero.”


The patients Hawkins sees cross multiple cultures, religions and economic backgrounds. Even so, he said the sense of community in Flint is extraordinary. Hawkins visits various community organizations and places of worship to volunteer and help people navigate the healthcare field.


Glenna Gates, a director at Grace Emmanuel Baptist Church in Flint, said Hawkins has been a crucial part of the church’s annual health fair and food giveaway. At past fairs, anywhere from five to 10 medical vendors would provide services like blood pressure and kidney checks, while hundreds of families received food. 


Although scaled back to a drive-through giveaway in the past year due to the pandemic, Gates said about 200 people were able to be helped. The fairs are open to the community and members of the church, which has a congregation of more than 300 people.


“Our church is known to be a community church and (Hawkins) is a strong supporter,” Gates said. “He will do what he can to help and if he doesn’t know the answer, he will find it out.” 


Making an effort and even doing something as simple as going to the pharmacy so medications can be delivered to a patient’s home can empower a person, Hawkins said. 


“You don’t have to go through it alone,” he said. “We were here before (the diagnosis), during and aren’t going anywhere.”