Adversity is something that Dr. Nathan Delafield, an internal medicine physician working at Valleywise Health and resident of the Desert Ridge area, is very familiar with. As an eight-year-old, Delafield entered the foster care system where he remained until he was 21. It is in those formative years where he witnessed the struggles of many around him to gain access to affordable, quality health care. This experience fueled his passion to return to the community that he came from and provide healthcare, compassion, and education.
Growing up in the shadows of Valleywise Health Medical Center in Central Phoenix living in a hotel at 24th Street and Van Buren for a portion of his childhood, Dr. Delafield realized early on that his interest in science coupled with his drive to improve his circumstances, may land him in the halls of that hospital where he now works.
As a 21-year-old exiting the foster system, Delafield was a ward of the state after his 18th birthday, which allowed him to receive the resources needed to complete his undergraduate degree at ASU and then attend medical school at Indiana University. In navigating a turbulent system and coming out the other side as a physician, he is an instant role model to those he serves.
“For many growing up in the foster system, hope for a better future seems impossible,” says Dr. Delafield. “I decided that I never wanted to be consumed by the environment and become another statistic, so I leveraged the resources available to me to get a great education and make my dream a reality where I can now make an impact, one patient at a time.”
Further, as an African-American physician, he believes that racial diversity in health care is critical to overcome disparities in healthcare that disproportionately impact minority communities.
“After completing my residency at Mayo Clinic, I could have worked anywhere, but with Valleywise Health and the renewed vision of the safety-net system, I knew I would be able to impact patients that come from similar environments that I came from,” says Dr. Delafield. “Having that empathy from experience to know these patients may be facing food scarcity, homelessness or come from a home with domestic violence, I feel I can better assist them with their health care needs and hopefully make them feel recognized and heard.”
To give a hand up to those currently in the foster system, Dr. Delafield also dedicates time as a board member for the Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation which gifts roughly $1M annually in scholarships, resources and extracurricular funds to children in the Arizona state foster care system.
Professionally, Dr. Delafield cares for patients at the Valleywise Community Health Center – South Phoenix/Laveen located in the neighborhood near 35th and Southern Avenues.
“To say I have come full circle in life is fair, but as a physician and human, my work is far from done,” says Delafield. “Working at Valleywise Health is my opportunity to bring world class healthcare to medically and socioeconomically disadvantaged communities. Through thoughtful, patient-centered and compassionate care we strive to provide comprehensive services and medicine to our patients. We have increased access to healthy food through food pharmacies, and provide diabetes/nutrition and behavioral health counseling services to those who would not normally have access to it. Our patients deserve the best and that is what we intend to provide.”