Dr. Ethan Gable studied the printout of jagged lines from the fetal non-stress test in progress on Kathreen Salih's belly. The steady whoosh-whoosh-whoosh of her baby's heartbeat filled the exam room.
"Let her know the baby's heartbeat is increasing," Gable told Salih's sister who came with her for her appointment last week at Jericho Road Community Health Center's Barton Street clinic. "The baby's good," he added. The sister translated Gable's words into Arabic. Salih, who was 34 weeks pregnant and had been taking medication to control her blood sugar, smiled.
Gable, 33, is the new chief medical officer at Jericho Road, a growing medical center that started 21 years ago as a clinic serving resettled refugees and other low-income people on the West Side. He is taking the position held by the center's founder, Dr. Myron Glick, who is now the CEO of the organization, which is getting ready to open its third local medical site in a 110,000-square-foot building next to the Broadway Market on the East Side.
Like Jericho Road, Gable has come a long way.
He grew up on the West Side in a single-parent home. His mother was raised in foster care. He never knew his father. His family – his mother, sister and himself – grew up poor. They never had a car. He was also a patient at Jericho Road and Glick was his doctor.
"I think he came to us when he was still in grade school," Glick said. "I remember him as a pretty typical West Side kid whose mom was a single mom and who had some struggles."
Gable wasn't a good student and was suspended several times. Teachers didn't seem to expect much from him. "It was more about: 'Stay out of trouble,' " Gable recalled. The idea of going to medical school and becoming a doctor was a "pipe dream" to kids like him, he said.
In high school, he developed an interest in health care and began volunteering at Jericho Road at the Monday night clinics for new refugees, helping nurses with paperwork.
Gable got into SUNY Buffalo State college and then later transferred to the University at Buffalo. He was preparing to transfer when his sister was shot in a domestic incident. He remembered seeing her at the hospital, and the doctors and nurses taking care of her at Erie County Medical Center.
He admired the doctors but at the same time, he thought about how his sister, who was smart, outgoing and had so much going for her, had gone down a difficult path, becoming a single mom and also getting addicted to drugs.
"I'm not going to be a product of my environment," Gable said to himself.
The experience pushed him to work hard at UB. He also continued working at Jericho Road. He then set his sights on medical school. The first time he took the MCAT exam, he failed the physics portion.
Glick encouraged him to try again. The second time, he did much better and was accepted at UB's medical school. Glick congratulated Gable with a stethoscope and an otoscope – the device used to peer into a patient's ears – which all medical students are expected to have when they start school.
"Myron believed in me before I believed in myself," Gable said.
After his residency at University of Rochester Medical Center, Gable, came back to Jericho Road last year, as its first OB-GYN.
"It's a huge blessing to us," Glick said. "He did very well in medical school and his residency. He was recruited lots of places and could be making more money in more prestigious settings to choosing to work at Jericho Road, not unlike what many of us are doing."
Glick founded Jericho Road in 1997. Then called Jericho Road Family Practice, the clinic saw just three patients that week. In the years since, Jericho Road renamed itself a community health center. It opened a second clinic on Genesee Street on the East Side. It added more services for its clients to support pregnant women and new mothers, taught English to newcomers and encouraged childhood literacy. Jericho Road took over control of Vive, a shelter for asylum seekers, and has also helped open clinics abroad, two in Sierra Leone and a third in the Congo.
This July, Jericho Road is opening its third medical site in Buffalo in the former home to the Jahraus-Braun Department Store at 1021 Broadway. The Mosaic 659 Foundation paid $482,000 to buy the four-story, red-brick complex of buildings.
The facility will house a primary care suite expected to be open to patients in July. WNY Imaging is also moving in. The site is expected to include a fitness center which will first be available for building staff, then later to patients and eventually to the community, Jericho Road officials said. Plans also include a Jericho Road pharmacy and a dental clinic, set to open in July 2019. In addition, nine other nonprofits are planning to move into the building including the Mental Health Association of Erie County and the Parent Network of WNY.
With the changes at Jericho Road, Glick is taking on new responsibilities as CEO. The previous CEO, Chris Campbell, is the organization's new chief administrative officer.
And Gable will take over for Glick as chief medical officer, overseeing medical care provided at all three Buffalo locations. "It's exciting to see," Glick said. "It's what we longed to try to do at Jericho Road, to invest in people and push them forward."
Gable is proud to take on his new role. He is continuing to see patients but he's also interested in finding ways to improve how the organization operates.
In Gable's new office at the Barton Street site, he has a large sheet of yellow paper covered with sticky notes and arrows drawn in black marker that track the paths of walk-in patients.
He also has a framed copy of the Lord's prayer, written in Aramaic, a nod to his Christian faith, and the stethoscope and otoscope Glick gave him when he got into medical school. The otoscope doesn't get much use these days. But Gable still uses his stethoscope when he sees his patients, and not only because of its medical function.
"I feel strongly about not forgetting where I came from," he said.