By Barbara Vinograde
Since the Iowa City Free Medical and Dental Clinic first opened its doors in 1971, thousands of uninsured and underinsured people in Johnson and surrounding counties have received care for acute and chronic illnesses. The Clinic’s mission — to provide the highest quality, most comprehensive medical and dental services possible to those in need — remains strong and relevant.
The Free Medical Clinic holds six clinics a week, four of which are for people with chronic diseases, such as diabetes or hypertension.
The clinic on the morning of Nov. 15 was one of these. I arrived a little after 9 a.m. The waiting room was well over half full. Seth Owens, our office manager, was scheduling an appointment for a Spanish-speaking patient. Seth’s fluency in Spanish is invaluable, as more than one-fourth of our patients speak Spanish.
Melanie Berry, our Volunteer/Clinic Coordinator, was working with two volunteer patient guides, and assigning exam rooms. Bill Riker, our Clinic Assistant, was on the phone with one of our patients, explaining some recent lab results.
Eric Wilson was volunteering in our dispensary, reviewing medication directions with a patient, and explaining the need for income documentation for the patient to receive another needed medication.
Our staff nurse, Mike Catney, was talking with a patient about the EKG test he was about to perform. Dr. Cecilia Norris, our Medical Director, was conferring with Jennifer Miller, Case Manager, about some lab results, including a concerning radiology report. A volunteer physician, Dr. Katherine Harris, had completed an exam for a patient with diabetes and asthma, and was taking her patient to the lab for tests.
The Iowa City Free Clinic has become a medical home for many uninsured people in our community with chronic diseases. These patients receive coordination and continuity of care. Insured or uninsured, people require medical care to thrive and lead productive lives. Last year, the clinic had almost 6,000 visits.
The federal Affordable Care Act brings the promise of much needed change. In the meantime, thanks to our community, the Iowa City Free Medical and Dental Clinic’s doors remain open.
Many thanks to the United Way of Johnson County, Johnson County, the City of Iowa City and the City of Coralville for your ongoing support. Mercy Hospital and the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics also play vital roles in the clinic’s longevity. Thanks to our volunteers, and to everyone who supports our mission.
Together, we contribute to the overall well-being of our community.
Barbara Vinograde is acting executive director, Iowa City Free Medical and Dental Clinic. Comments: BVinograde@freemedicalclinic.org