Jan. 30, 2018
AUSTIN — The Texas Medical Association Foundation (TMAF) presented its top 2018 John P. McGovern Champion of Health Award to Alan Keister, MD, founder of Heal the City Free Clinic (HTC), an urgent care facility in Amarillo. TMAF presented the award at 2018 TMA Winter Conference in Austin on Saturday. The award is TMAF’s highest honor, and it recognizes exceptional projects that address urgent public health threats and furthers TMAF’s mission to help physicians create a healthier future for all Texans.
“I am humbled to be recognized for the work that is happening at Heal the City!” said Dr. Keister. “I am thankful for this generous award and will use it to continue to provide better care for the uninsured people of our community.”
HTC provides quality urgent medical care and referral services with compassion and dignity at no cost to uninsured residents of Amarillo and the Panhandle region. Ironically, Dr. Keister realized the desperate need for health care in Amarillo while far away from home — on medical mission trips to Central America. He began to realize his vision to open a free medical clinic when offering free health screenings at local schools in 2013. The local outreach was so successful he formed a board of directors, secured a facility — a small Amarillo home — and gathered volunteers to staff the first HTC clinic.
The clinic opened in 2014 and served 4,000 patients. HTC now cares for 7,000 patients, including people who are homeless, undocumented people, refugees, and the working poor. HTC expanded from that initial small house-based clinic to its current location, a 20,000-square-foot building that formerly housed a YMCA. HTC also has expanded services in Potter and Randall counties by adding additional clinic hours. Caregivers expanded services, including chronic disease intervention, social services, broader hours for lab review appointments, and a monthly Women’s Night that provides free cervical and breast cancer screenings.
“Thanks to people who have a passion for healing and service, the success of the Heal the City Free Clinic shows how tremendous medical needs of a community can be met,” said Leslie H. Secrest, MD, president of TMAF, the Texas Medical Association’s philanthropic arm. “We are very pleased to honor the work of this clinic and its founder, Dr. Alan Keister, in caring for thousands of patients who otherwise might not get adequate medical care.”
HTC’s growth is a result of the overwhelming response of patients in need of medical care and the generous support of numerous medical partners, donors, and volunteers. In 2017, HTC announced a $5.4 million capital campaign that will help the organization complete new construction at its facility. When completed, the former YMCA will have a pharmacy, 14 exam rooms, eight collaboration areas, and five triage spaces. Currently, HTC has 400 active volunteers, and Dr. Keister continues to serve as medical director and volunteers to care for patients there on a weekly basis.
In addition to the $5,000 grant for program enhancement, TMAF’s top Champion of Health Award winner receives a specially commissioned bronze statue. The award is named after John P. McGovern, MD, a philanthropist, scholar, and noted allergist who founded the John P. McGovern Foundation in Houston. Dr. McGovern established a permanent endowment at TMAF, which supports this award.
TMA is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing more than 51,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 112 component county medical societies around the state. TMA’s key objective since 1853 is to improve the health of all Texans. The TMA Foundation raises funds to support the population health, science, and quality-of-care priority initiatives of TMA and the Family of Medicine.
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