Letter to the editor: The meaning of community

Photo courtesy of the Iowa City Free Medical and Dental Clinic

By Barbara Vinograde, Iowa City Free Medical and Dental Clinic executive director

One of our patients recently wrote: “I am 58 years old, born outside the United States and an American citizen. I’ve had wonderful times as well as plain scary times in my years in America. It is an amazing feeling to know that even during the times I didn’t have insurance, my basic health would be OK, because the Iowa City Free Clinic was here. It gives me a feeling of dignity to have access to health care. Thank you all for the help, throughout the years.”

Since 1971, the Iowa City Free Medical and Dental Clinic has worked hard to represent the best qualities of our community: dignity, kindness, respect and the willingness to work together to make things better for others. For 47 years, people living and working in our community have come together to provide assistance for our friends and neighbors in need of medical and dental assistance.

The Free Clinic’s partnerships are many: Our organization works with Johnson County, the Cities of Iowa City and Coralville and the United Way. Our partnerships with UIHC and Mercy Hospital are integral to our successful operation. Local service groups and area churches generously support the clinic. Area businesses also provide much needed assistance.

Our most recently formed partnership is with the University of Iowa College of Nursing. Through grant funding, the Free Clinic now has a regularly scheduled Nurse Practitioner Clinic and has hired a part-time nurse practitioner. The College of Nursing is partnering in this endeavor by paying a portion of the nurse practitioner’s salary. This new clinic will focus on the Free Clinic’s mission, “to provide quality, comprehensive healthcare for the uninsured and underinsured in Johnson County and surrounding areas,” while at the same time providing a training environment for nurse practitioner students.

Last year, the clinic received over 1.3 million dollars of in-kind patient services, including labs, medications, radiology procedures and medical supplies. Hundreds of volunteers selflessly donated their time and skills. Because our community works together, the clinic holds six weekly medical clinics and six to 12 monthly dental clinics. We also provide specialty care including gynecology, ophthalmology, dermatology and physical therapy.

The Iowa City Free Clinic is one of the longest running free clinics in the United States. We are here today because of our many diverse, rich, long-standing and evolving partnerships. I am extremely proud to be a part of such a community.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 240.

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