New Catholic clinic in Detroit to provide women, families with care for the ‘whole person’

Dr. Thomas Meyer and Dr. Lisa Knysz Dr. Thomas Meyer will be serving as the OB-GYN for the Heart of Christ Medical Clinic and Dr. Lisa Knysz will be the clinic's director. The clinic hopes to open in Detroit in October 2023. | Credit: Heart of Christ Medical Clinic

A new clinic focused on providing women with authentic, Catholic care will soon be opening its doors in Detroit. The Heart of Christ Medical Clinic will serve pregnant mothers, individuals, and families of all socioeconomic backgrounds, insured or uninsured, with high-quality care for the whole person — physical, emotional, and spiritual.

The clinic will be located on the grounds of the historic Basilica of Ste. Anne de Detroit. Family and women’s health care will be provided, including prenatal and postnatal care. The clinic will include a chapel where patients can pray and receive the sacraments. 

The Christ Medicus Foundation, the Knights of Columbus, the Order of Malta, and other nonprofit, faith-based organizations will be hosting the first annual Heart of Christ Fundraising Gala on Sept. 28 to support the Heart of Christ Medical Clinic. Organizers hope the clinic may begin to open its doors as early as October. 

Dr. Lisa Knysz, who will serve as the clinic’s director, and Monsignor Charles Kosanke, rector of the Basilica of St. Anne de Detroit, spoke with CNA about the new clinic and what they hope it will offer the community.

“When an individual comes in, we’re not just looking at their physical condition or their physical symptoms — yes, we, by all means, are going to address those needs, we’re going to treat those needs — but, we’re looking at them with a spiritual lens, an emotional lens, and a physical lens,” Knysz said.

She added: “That whole essence of the person can be cared for and not just them, but their families, their extended families, their partners, their spouses, their children so that the healing love of Christ can be wrapped around any individual that walks in.”

After conducting a needs assessment, Knysz found that in the geographic region in which the clinic will be located about 40% of the population has Medicaid. Additionally, she explained that Detroit does not have many grocery stores. Many are on food stamps, use food pantries, or WIC, a federally-funded supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children.

She said these “social determinants of health” will not matter as each patient who walks in the door will be treated with “dignity and respect.”

Kosanke emphasized the important role the clinic will play in caring for mothers who find themselves in crisis pregnancies and are unsure whether to keep the baby or not. He explained that the clinic has partnered with Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan to provide counseling as well as adoption services.

He added that their goal is to have a Heart of Christ Medical Clinic in each of the seven dioceses in Michigan.

“Michigan became a pro-abortion state, which was disappointing to us, but you can’t let the disappointment paralyze you,” he said. “Instead, you have to respond in a positive way to give women and families the assistance they need to make pro-life choices.”

For Kosanke, one of the most critical tools that help women choose life is the ultrasound machine, which the Knights of Columbus has generously donated to the clinic. 

“Studies have shown it has been very effective because once someone sees a fetus on the screen, it’s no longer an abstract concept or an organ. It’s a life, which is the truth,” he shared. “So, confronted with that truth, most of the time … once a woman realizes what she’s really doing, she does not go through with it.”

Knysz added that abortion pill reversal will also be available at the clinic for those women who may have started the abortion procedure but have changed their minds. 

She emphasized the clinic’s goal to support women physically, emotionally, and spiritually in all stages — whether they are looking to place their baby for adoption, reverse an abortion, or are simply in need of prenatal care — “so that they’re not left thinking we only care about their baby, we don’t care about them.”

Knysz shared that this will be her first time working for a faith-based clinic. While she has always been vocal about her faith, she has spent her career in secular organizations. During her time at her previous workplace, two experiences led her to make the decision to leave.

On the day Roe v. Wade was overturned, she was greeted at her clinic by all of the providers holding poster boards preparing to protest. 

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On another occasion, as she walked past an exam room, she heard a patient ask the provider if they would pray with her. The provider responded, “I don’t do that,” and walked out. 

“I was seething,” Knysz said. “I’m thinking, ‘Okay, take a deep breath because this is not going to serve you to be angry at the provider.”

She heard the young woman crying in the exam room so she entered, introduced herself, and asked if there was anything she could do to help.

“I said, ‘I overheard you ask the nurse practitioner to pray with you and if it’s OK with you I would be honored to say a prayer with you if you would still like that,’” she recalled.

The two said a prayer together and after the young woman had checked out, Knysz found out that the patient had been raped and was at the clinic getting tested for HIV, STDs, as well as to get a pregnancy test. 

“Not that it should matter, but when a patient asks you to say a prayer with them — it just literally broke my heart that that was the provider’s response and so that very next day I went to the CEO and I gave my 45-day notice,” she said. 

Knysz considers herself blessed to be a part of the Heart of Christ Medical Clinic, where “we will have the opportunity to build relationships with the individuals that come in to be seen” and “where they’re not a number.” 

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