An Evans faith-based health clinic reached many milestones in 2012, including a decade of service to the community.
FaithCare free clinic is an outreach ministry of Wesley United Methodist Church in Evans. Volunteer physicians have been providing medical care for uninsured residents of Columbia County since it opened in September 2002.
“I’m so proud,” said Dr. Al Lightsey, one of the clinic’s founding physicians and a former medical director. “I think it certainly hasn’t fixed the healthcare system, but it has made a difference in some individuals’ lives.”
The staff celebrated the 10th anniversary at the beginning of the Dec. 11 clinic with a prayer from church pastors Greg Porterfield and Adam Hildebrandt and cake shared by volunteers and patients.
“Everybody was there, we shared the cake,” clinic administrator Andy Anderson said. “It was just kind of a nice reflection.”
Medical director Dr. Laura Mulloy cut the cake and Haddie Avery, the clinic’s longest-running patient, joined in the celebration. Avery began coming to the clinic in its first year and was the 66th patient.
The clinic served its 500th patient in June and six volunteer physicians, nurses, physicians assistants and medical students handled 375 patient appointments in 2012.
“We have some pretty dedicated people come out there,” Anderson said.
Several volunteers have served in the clinic since it started including Lightsey, Mulloy, Ross Meschke, Joe Kendall and Dr. Bob Thomas.
The clinic is open the second and fourth Tuesday of each month at the Doctors Hospital Surgery Center on Ronald Reagan Drive in Evans. It operates solely from grants, donations and volunteers.
The volunteer medical staff treats uninsured Columbia County residents with minor or chronic illnesses and provides primary medical care including psychological counseling, nutrition and some prescription drug assistance. Patients must qualify for the clinic by meeting a percentage of the state poverty level.
About half the residents who call for appointments suffer from acute illnesses and can’t wait up to two months to be seen at the clinic, Anderson said.
Most of the clinic’s patients need help monitoring and managing chronic illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis and depression.
“It’s made a big difference for folks,” Lightsey said. “It’s fascinating to see a lot of times, just helping folks come up with some kind of strategy to help them deal with their issues, that’s enough to get them turned around.
“They have a hard time believing that individuals will give them the kind of time and help to guide them with some decent advice, then it works. It’s a lot of fun to see that happen.”
Time with a doctor is priceless to most patients, Lightsey said.
But the clinic is also rewarding for those who operate it. As a faith-based clinic, staff will pray with patients who want to.
“It’s a nice witness,” Porterfield said.
Over the years, the clinic has expanded into the community by joining the Greater Augusta Healthcare Network, offering clinical experience with patients for first-year medical students and collaborations with outside healthcare providers including specialists, dieticians and chiropractors.
“It continues to be a blessing,” Lightsey said. “It’s great to know it’s a lot bigger than any one or two people. It involves the whole community, really.”
To make an appointment or to see if you qualify for the clinic, call (706) 829-2584.