January 28, 2020
Each Cares for Uninsured, Low-Income Patients
AUSTIN — Low-income, uninsured people in Bryan can get health care, and underserved Texans can access vision-saving surgery, thanks to the two special health care nonprofits recognized by the Texas Medical Association Foundation’s (TMAF’s) 2020 John P. McGovern Champion of Health Awards. TMAF presented the awards to the honorees on Saturday at the TMA Winter Conference, in Austin.
This year’s first-place Champion of Health recipient is Health For All Inc. of Bryan, led by Executive Director Elizabeth N. Dickey. Health For All provides low-income, uninsured community members with free basic medical care.
The secondary award goes to the Cornerstone Assistance Network Cataract Procedure Center of Fort Worth, led by Executive Director Mike Doyle. Cornerstone, or “CAN,” provides free cataract procedures to low-income, medically uninsured Texans, helping them maintain their independence.
The awards recognize exceptional projects that address urgent public health threats, and extends TMAF’s mission to help physicians create a healthier future for all Texans. The first-place recipient receives $7,500, and the second-place honoree receives $3,000. The funds help sustain or enhance the winning programs.
TMAF Champion of Health Top Award: Health For All Inc.
(Left to right) TMA Foundation President Susan Pike, MD, with
Health For All Inc.'s Kate Barnes, Executive Director Elizabeth N.
Dickey, and Nancy Dickey, MD. Photo: TMA/Matt Lemke
Health For All Inc. opened its clinic in 1987 to provide low income, uninsured members of the community with free basic medical care. Karim Haji, MD, and his wife, Asha Haji, MD, started the clinic, and Dr. Karim Haji continues to volunteer there to this day.
Health For All serves about 1,600 Brazos Valley residents each year. The clinic estimates about one in three people in the area is uninsured, and therefore less likely to seek preventive health care or receive treatment for symptoms that can have serious health consequences if ignored. The clinic and its hundreds of volunteers reverse that trend, by caring for these patients in need.
“We’re so blessed to be able to serve others who have no other avenue for adequate medical care, and we cannot adequately express our gratitude to everyone who helps us provide health care and hope to our neighbors in need,” said Ms. Dickey. “It is an honor to be awarded the Champion of Health Award by the Texas Medical Association Foundation. This recognition serves as validation that we are making a difference.”
Clinic physicians and other volunteers strive to treat each patient with dignity and respect while delivering high-quality care.
Too often people with no primary care medical home have no recourse but to go to a hospital emergency department because lack of care turns their manageable medical condition into a medical crisis. Health For All provides an alternative to the emergency room for low-income, uninsured patients while improving their health, and cutting community costs.
The need is great; all the clinic’s patients are below 200% of the federal poverty line, and four out of five earn less than $1,500 per month. Most are single parents, and more than half are female.
In addition to primary and preventive care, the clinic also gives food boxes to hungry patients, hosts walks to encourage physical activity, and is establishing a way to “prescribe” and provide patients with healthy foods like locally grown vegetables. It also collaborates with other area nonprofits to clothe and give other support to their patients.
Secondary Award: Cornerstone Assistance Network Cataract Procedure Center
(Left to right) Clifford Moy, MD, and Cornerstone's Health Services
Director Lori Kennedy. Photo: TMA/Matt Lemke
Physicians and other leaders at the Cornerstone Assistance Network Cataract Procedure Center understand losing eyesight can lead to unemployment and dependence on others. The Fort Worth clinic provides free cataract procedures to low-income, uninsured Texans, so they can find or keep their job and live as independently as possible.
Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness. CAN physician volunteers and other partners have performed more than 300 cataract-removal eye procedures since the clinic’s inception in 1992. The Christian organization expected to perform vision-restoring surgery on 100 patients in 2019 alone.
One homeless CAN patient’s vision was so poor she could only perceive light. After her surgery she saw so well she could drive again, but she said seeing the face of her grandchild was the best part of having her sight restored. Another patient lost her job because lack of eyesight caused her to make mistakes; after her successful surgery, she got her job back to provide for herself and her special-needs son.
“This award will enable the Cornerstone Assistance Network to offer more free cataract procedures to low- and zero-income uninsured people, restoring sight and providing life-changing access to employment and independence,” said CAN Executive Director Mr. Doyle.
Most of CAN’s patients are in their mid-fifties, have income at or below 250% of the federal poverty guidelines, and are uninsured. Most live in north central Texas, though some come from as far away as the Texas Panhandle and the Austin area for the free care.
Some of CAN’s physician volunteers also travel across the state to donate their surgical time. “How do you measure giving a day or two to allow someone to see for 30 more years? What I receive in return cannot be measured,” said Mahdhavi Reddy, MD, who crosses the state from his home in Brownsville to care for CAN’s patients.
TMAF named the award after the late 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 53,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 110 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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Contact: Brent Annear (512) 370-1381; cell: (512) 656-7320
Marcus Cooper (512) 370-1382; cell: (512) 650-5336
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