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OU-COM Diabetes Free Clinic provides critical care for the uninsured

By Anita Martin and Colleen Kiphart

When Robert lost his job as a plant supervisor in Meigs County, he and his wife, Amy—both diabetic—had to spend retirement savings to pay for COBRA insurance. “The world turned upside-down,” Amy says.

Then they read about the OU-COM mobile heath van, which offers free health care to uninsured Appalachian citizens. There, volunteer nurses connected the couple with the monthly Diabetes Free Clinic.

The OU-COM Diabetes Free Clinic is funded by grants from organizations such as the Sisters of Saint Joseph and the Ohio Association of Free Clinics. It began in November 2006 and currently has more than 85 active charts.

“When I first heard ‘free clinic,’ I figured that they’d herd you in like cattle, but it’s not like that,” Robert said. “These guys go out of their way.”

The diabetes clinic “offers the total package,” says Kathy Trace, M.H.A., B.S.N., director of Community Health Programs. “Patients get a doctor’s visit, health education, follow-ups and free care.” The clinic is staffed by volunteers from OU-COM and University Medical Associates, including endocrinologists like Frank Schwartz, M.D., professor of endocrinology and J.O. Watson Endowed Diabetes Research Chair.

The Diabetes Free Clinic also provides referrals to doctors who offer volunteer medical services. When Amy had stomach pain, the Diabetes Free Clinic sent her for a free colonoscopy at Doctor’s Hospital, part of the hospital’s monthly outreach efforts. The procedure may well have saved her life.

“I woke up they told me they removed a pre-cancerous polyp from my colon,” she says. “I just thank God for (the Diabetes Free Clinic). I don’t know what we would do without it.”

In Appalachian Ohio at least 11 percent of the population has diabetes—three points higher than the rest of the country.

Trace emphasized that “there is no stereotypical patient at the diabetes free clinic. The only thing that these people have in common is diabetes. When people lose jobs, health insurance is often the first thing to go. And no matter your financial status, once you have been diagnosed with diabetes, it can become nearly impossible to get health insurance.”

Schwartz agrees, adding that, “With this diabetes clinic, we can offer our community free, specialized care when they need it most.”

  College news:
Diabetes Clinic serves uninsured

  Ohio University
College of Osteopathic Medicine
Grosvenor Hall | Athens, Ohio 45701
Tel: 1-800-345-1560
Last updated: 06/11/2010