Diabetes Free Clinic provides critical care for the
By Anita Martin and Colleen
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.”