Seeking Health Equity: The Timothy Freeman, MD, Center for Developmental Disabilities

May. 27, 2024

UC Health celebrates growth and equity in providing care for adults with disabilities.

When Kathleen Sheil walks into the Timothy Freeman, MD, Center for Developmental Disabilities (DD) off Burnet Avenue, she’s greeted by the smiling faces of staff and the radiance of artwork hung on the walls.

Watch the power of the Timothy Freeman, MD, Center for Developmental Disabilities as seen through the eyes of patients and staff

Kathleen’s Story:

Kathleen is 42 years old and has Down syndrome. She loves her job, family, soccer, and hanging out with friends. For years, she and her family have trusted UC Health with her primary care.

The Timothy Freeman, MD, Center for Developmental Disabilities was founded in 2022. The late Timothy Freeman, MD, was a pioneer who spent more than 30 years focusing on care for adults with disabilities.  The center, which bears his name as appreciation for his vision and care, provides interdisciplinary care for adults with disabilities starting at age 18.

Kathleen: 42 year old patient with down syndrome at the Timothy Freeman Center

Freeman Center Resources

Currently, 1,300 patients, including Kathleen Sheil, receive care through the Freeman Center.

Lauren Wang, MD, is the Medical Director of the Freeman Center.

“This is where the joy of your heart meets what the world needs,” Dr. Wang said explaining her passion for working with adults with disabilities. “This huge, underserved population of adults is transitioning from the pediatric system into adulthood without the same resources and services, in the adult system.

That was what lit my fire to go into this work.”

 The Freeman Center's mission is to advance healthcare for adults with developmental disabilities by providing person-centered, coordinated, and interdisciplinary care, educating health professionals and partnering with the community.

“We did a community needs assessment to see what adults with developmental disabilities want,” Wang explained concerning the process for the formation of the Freeman Center. Those with lived experience and community partners have been an integral part of the center’s growth and development. “Our backbone is primary care and behavioral health.”

In addition, the Freeman Center also provides the following services:

  • Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
  • Dietary support
  • Clinical pharmacist
  • Mental Health Therapy
  • Social work
  • Behavioral Support
  • Nurse Care Coordination
  • Condition-specific health consultations
  • Healthcare transition planning
  • Community Navigation
  • In-person and virtual healthcare visits

The Freeman Center strives to deliver care with compassion and dignity toward each patient. Part of this intentional care is by utilizing the mission of UC Health: Care, Research and Education.

“We were extremely intentional having the Freeman Center here at UC Health,” Dr. Wang said. “We really wanted to be in an academic health system.”

The difference to me,  is  we're connected with so many different specialties that you cannot get a lot of other places, and a lot of these patients have other conditions that require the need of a specialist,” Dr. Wang explained.

“So if you see a patient with Down syndrome,” Dr. Wang said. “They might also need a pulmonologist to help with their sleep apnea, an ENT to help with recurrent ear infections. These are just a couple things, but we have those resources in an academic health system. The other really important thing is continuity of care. If a patient's admitted to the hospital, we have that communication and collaboration, then it's a seamless experience for the patient.”

 Dr. Wang walks into the exam room and greets Kathleen with a warm smile.

“We're focused on the person that's in front of us, and we always try to engage with that person as much as possible to find out what they want from their health care,” Dr. Wang said.

The two shared a laugh when Kathleen’s ear check by Dr. Wang tickled her. You could sense their ease with each other. She spoke about her comfort with and appreciation for Dr. Wang.

“Dr. Wang is an amazing person,” Kathleen said. “She really is. And she really cares about each and every one of her patients. And she's always in the here and now and very supportive of all of what she does.

Corey Keeton, MD, assistant professor in the departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, and Family and Community Medicine at UC, and a UC Health physician, is among the team providing  care at the Freeman Center.

Dr. Keeton also spent time with Kathleen and discussed her plans for the previous weekend and her current feelings.

“Having a place where medical resources, behavioral health resources are under one roof, I think makes a huge difference,” Dr. Keeton said. “And it really not only makes a difference for the patients and improves the patient's ability to just function and enjoy life and be healthy, but also can make a big difference for families and caregivers who have been working so hard to make sure that their loved one gets the care that they need.”

Blaire: Patient at Timothy Freeman, MD, Center for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Blair’s Story

Other patients Dr. Keeton and Dr. Wang meet with, including Blair Baker, require more help with communicating with their care team. Blair is 39 years old, has cerebral palsy and scoliosis and is nonverbal. He uses a wheelchair and communicates with his eyes.

Blair’s main support is his mother, Linette Johnson, a single parent. Linette explained how Blair becoming a patient with Dr. Wang at the Freeman Center brought about noticeable has changes in her son and herself.

“I always wanted a connection and a new home,” Linette said. “The Freeman Center can relate. And when you have a doctor that can communicate and relate to the heart issues of a mother for an adult child, that's not understood in the community. It's awesome.”

“He’s more smiley now,” Linette said of how she’s noticed a physical and emotional change in Blair since joining the Freeman Center. “He feels more connected.”

Linette described the Freeman Center as “a village to help me help Blair.”

Dr. Wang takes pride in the “village” she has helped to cultivate with her staff at the Freeman Center. Currently, Timothy Freeman, MD, Center for  Developmental Disabilities has a waitlist for new patients. Still, Dr. Wang sees it as a sign that future physicians are needed to join the field and of opportunities for client growth in the coming years. Currently, the Freeman Center is recruiting for its first fellowship for a program focusing on developmental medicine in adults.

The Freeman Center is set to expand to an off-site  intentionally designed location on Victory Parkway in early 2025.

Dr. Wang said she is focused on health equity and helping people of all abilities have access to the personalized healthcare they need to lead healthy lives. 

The Freeman Center welcomes continued partnerships to transform healthcare for adults with developmental disabilities in our community and beyond. To get connected or learn more please visit:

“We're the welcoming access point here at the Freeman Center that just opens the doors for the patients to be able to access all the other things that UC Health has to offer that other people might have found more accessible than people with disabilities,” Dr. Wang said. “So how do we break down the barriers and make our system a more welcoming place?”

PODCAST: Click here for our full podcast conversation with Dr. Lauren Wang. She shares how she discovered her passion for caring for people with disabilities, her personal connection to the late Dr. Timothy Freeman, and the new expansive 15,000-square-foot Freeman Center location to open in 2025.