Central Health’s Kuang Named Humanitarian of the Year

(Austin) – Dr. Audrey Kuang, Central Health’s director of high-risk populations, was named Humanitarian of the Year last Thursday night by the Travis County Medical Society (TCMS) at the group’s annual awards dinner.

Dr. Kuang joined Central Health in 2022 and was among the first physicians hired by the hospital district to provide direct care to patients, specializing in care for Travis County’s unhoused population. She completed her undergraduate studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her medical studies at the University of Chicago-Pritzker School of Medicine. She then completed her residency training in Internal Medicine at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, California, where she also served as chief resident.

Prior to becoming part of the Central Health team, Dr. Kuang joined the staff of Central Health-affiliated CommUnityCare in 2017 as an associate director and has served as the subject matter expert for individuals experiencing homelessness. Since her arrival in Austin, she has also served as an assistant clinical professor within the Department of Population Health at the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin.

“I am incredibly grateful to TCMS for this great honor and am deeply humbled by this recognition,” Dr. Kuang said. “Homelessness puts a face to all the broken and dysfunctional systems that exist, and my greatest joy comes from seeing our community come together with the resources we each have to help relieve suffering, address inequity and help our patients reach their goals. This award is not possible without Central Health’s incredible support and CommunityCare’s Healthcare for the Homeless team, which is doing the work on the frontlines, rain or shine, fighting for our patients and for health equity.”

Among Dr. Kuang’s accomplishments with Central Health and CommUnityCare:

  • She led the clinical team that provided initial local drive-through COVID-19 testing during the shocking and fearful outset of the pandemic.
  • She led care in the temporary shelters for Texas refugee neighbors in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in 2017, caring for similar populations after subsequent storms, regardless of patient location or condition.
  • During Texas’ devastating winter storm of 2021, when travel was treacherous and resources scarce, Dr. Kuang drove to the few shelters open to personally care for those experiencing homelessness, often caring for frostbite and exposure complications in addition to ensuring continuity of their chronic disease management.
  • She has delineated partnerships and protocols and care pathways for individuals transitioning from a hospital to a post-acute clinical environment or even back to the streets to ensure that patients have a one stop access point to the resources they need.
  • Her latest initiative is providing expertise and vision to the build of respite service for uninsured individuals discharged from the hospital who need a safe space to heal.
  • Her work ties in directly with Central Health’s Healthcare Equity Plan, which was launched in February to bring healthcare services to traditionally underserved and lower-income populations in Travis County.

Dr. Alan Schalscha, chief medical officer of Central Health and himself a winner of the same honor in 2019, said Travis County is fortunate to have someone with Dr. Kuang’s drive to serve low-income and vulnerable populations.

“Dr. Kuang  serves the clinically complex and the most under-resourced,” Dr. Schalscha said. “She is a system designer and a fierce patient advocate. Our community is so fortunate to have Dr. Kuang as a caregiver, visionary, advocate, colleague, and friend.”

Dr. Kuang said Dr. Schalscha has served as a great role model for her.

“He has helped me grow as a leader and believed in this work, and wholeheartedly supports bringing care to the most marginalized and vulnerable in our community,” she said.

In addition to Dr. Kuang’s honor, Dr. Mike Stefanowicz, sexual health associate director with CommUnityCare, won the “Ruth M. Bain Young Physician Award.”

Other award winners from the evening were:

Physician of the Year: Sarmistha Hauger, MD 
Lifetime Achievement: James McMichael, MD 
Humanitarian Award: Dave Clarke, MD 
Ruth M. Bain Young Physician Awards: Lauren Gambill, MD