Real People. Real Stories

The Physicians Free Clinic- Fulfilling Its Mission

"They all told me that they would take care of me and fix my problem and they did." Melody Deberry, Cook, Pickerington, OH

On January 5, 2007, Melody Deberry woke with severe pain to her neck. Initially she attributed the pain to a stiff neck from an unfavorable sleeping position. Over the next week, the pain grew worse and worse until it became unbearable. Melody did not have health insurance or the means to cover doctor’s visits to investigate the source of the pain. As the pain continued to worsen, she was left with no choice but to seek medical care. By the time Melody saw her first doctor, the pain had traveled to her shoulder and down her left arm. She describes the pain as her muscles twisting into a knot. All day. Every day.  

Melody spent time and money she didn’t have to spare on cortisone shots and chiropractors.  Anything to find relief. She found herself leaving each visit in tears and in more pain than she was in when she arrived at the appointment.  

Melody a hard-working, single mom, considers herself fortunate to work for generous, compassionate people that do what they can for her through their small, family-owned business.   Everyday, Melody would make herself go to work. Melody recalls, “I would always cry because of the constant pain.” The pain continued to become so severe that she experienced great difficulty in lifting the smallest item and often suffered minor blackouts.  

Eventually, someone associated with the owners of the business Melody worked for told her about the Physicians Free Clinic – a clinic for the uninsured staffed by physicians of the Columbus Medical Association. The next Monday evening, she left work and went straight to the clinic to see a doctor. After a number of different tests and pain medications, Melody was still not finding a solution or relief to her pain.  The PFC staff did not give up and continued to search for answers to Melody’s problem. “I was seen numerous times to really determine the problem and the most suitable physician for my condition.” Dr. Myron Smith and Dr. Edward Bope, two of the physicians who treated Melody at the clinic, arranged a free MRI to help diagnose the problem. The MRI revealed hat Melody had a narrowing of her spine causing discs to bulge and press on her nerves.  

PFC’s Nurse Coordinator Katie Clark delivered the good news to Melody that she had been scheduled for surgery with Dr. Ward P. Buster. Dr. Buster performed a 5-hour surgery, removed discs 4 through 7 and replaced them with a metal plate. Melody felt instant relief right in the recovery room. The surgery reduced the pressure and the pain was gone.  

The work of the Physicians Free Clinic saw Melody through physical therapy and found her a family physician to provide ongoing care on a sliding fee scale. “The staff and physicians associated with PFC are caring and wonderful. They all told me that they would take care of me and fix my problem – and they did,” Melody says fondly.  

Although it was recommended to Melody that she rest for at least three months, she returned to work 12 days later, still feeling 100% better and 10 years younger.   

Much to Melody’s surprise, the Physicians Free Clinic extended a special invitation to her to attend a benefit and share her story with others. Melody was honored by the request.  It was a black tie affair.  “I was so happy to share my story with everyone and give thanks to the many people that helped me have my life back,” she remembers.  

Melody will never forget her experience with the Physicians Free clinic or the countless doctors that donated their time and talents to helping her. This is the feeling that is often experienced by those who visit the PFC, people whose lives change each time they change the life of someone else.  

Continuing a Fathers Legacy

"As human beings, we have to make sure that people don't slip through the cracks." Jane Ackley & Bob Kirk, Jr.
Columbus, OH

Dr. Robert C. Kirk was a dedicated physician who spent more than 60 years of his life caring for others – regardless of their ability to pay for his services.  His son, Bob Kirk, Jr., vividly remembers his father seeing patients knowing that many of them would not have the money to pay for their medical care.  When he questioned his father why he would treat patients who couldn’t pay, Dr. Kirk simply said that whether or not someone could afford it, they deserved quality health care.  Jane Ackley, Dr. Kirk’s daughter, emphasized that her father taught them that “as human beings, we have to make sure that people don’t slip through the cracks and that as a community we have to reach out to them.”  That philosophy is evident on Monday evenings when those who need it, but don’t have insurance to pay for it, line up to have their health care needs met at the Physicians Free Clinic (PFC).

Dr. Robert Kirk’s spirit of compassion and caring is echoed in the actions of the many health care professionals who volunteer their time and talents at the Clinic.  Established in 1993, the PFC is the largest provider of free health care in Franklin County.  Dr. Kirk strongly believed in what the Clinic was trying to accomplish by providing care to those who could not afford it, as he had done throughout his medical career.  Fostering those goals, he created the Robert C. Kirk, MD Fund in 1998 to support the ongoing operations of the PFC. 

Although Dr. Kirk passed away in December 2001, his family is proud to continue his legacy of assisting those in the community who can’t always take care of themselves.  “Dad truly believed in treating patients with dignity,” Kirk stressed, “and when my sister and I first visited the Clinic last year, we could see that same compassionate spirit alive in all the volunteers.”  Both Kirk and Ackley were impressed by the operation but were struck by the significance of an often-overlooked dilemma — many who cannot afford nor have sufficient access to health care in Franklin County.  “I was amazed by the sheer number of people waiting in line at the Clinic to see a doctor,” Kirk recalled.  “This is a real need in our area and people just don’t know enough about it,” he added.  

That is why both of Dr. Kirk’s children have pledged their family’s on-going support of the Clinic.  According to Ackley, “I think we’re not cognizant that there are so many people in need of good health resources.  And I’m sure enough people still don’t know about the wonderful network that the Physicians Free Clinic is to those who need care, but also to those who want to reach out and help others, whether it be financially as a donor or as a volunteer.”

Edward Bope, MD, PFC Volunteer Medical Director, knows too well the ongoing problem of health care disparities occurring both locally and nationally and the struggle to address them.  Dr. Bope has been involved with the PFC and its unique operation since its inception.  “There had long been a community need and desire for physicians to volunteer in a unified way to assist in reaching these who were most in need and were facing barriers when seeking health care,” he said.  More than a decade has passed since Dr. Bope and others came together to offer a solution. 
The PFC provides episodic care for walk-in patients on Monday evenings at the Columbus Health Department at 240 Parsons Avenue.  Specialty care is provided by appointment at the Clinic and also at participating physicians’ offices. “We provide something truly unique at the PFC in that we have secondary and tertiary specialty clinics scheduled on a recurring basis,” Dr. Bope pointed out.  “No one else is equipped like this to meet patients’ needs in Central Ohio and offer the same type of safety net.” 

Dr. Bope estimated that more than 300 physicians currently participate in the health care services at the Clinic, both via volunteering their time and also through donations.  “It’s a way for us, as physicians, to use our training and skills to help people in a very meaningful way,” Dr. Bope added.  Medical students also have an opportunity to participate in the Clinic services.  This provides them a tremendous learning opportunity to build their skills while “giving them a feeling, early on in their medical careers that they’re helping their community,” according to Bope.
The dedicated actions of the numerous physicians, clinicians and lay volunteers at the Physicians Free Clinic have provided free care for more than 30,000 uninsured people in Franklin County.  As Jane Ackley learned from her late father, “No community works well without people giving back.”

The purpose of the Foundation is to continue to foster a unique partnership between physicians and the community to solve health problems.  In order to continue to meet the unending needs of Columbus’ uninsured residents through the Physicians Free Clinic and to keep Dr. Kirk’s good health legacy alive, the Columbus Medical Association Foundation is seeking additional community partners. Contact the Foundation at 614-240-7420 to learn more about providing philanthropic support.  

A 10,000 Mile Health Vision

"I believe that it is better to teach them how to fish rather than give them the fish." Dr. Arthur Gan Hok Bing 

Educational materials, training and best practices know no boundaries.  Quality medical education and training is essential for providing quality patient care.  This conviction fuels the passion and personal mission of Dr. Arthur Gan Hok Bing’s passion and he has made it his mission to share with the world.  

During Dr. Bing’s medical training and teaching experience in Indonesia, he was denied additional educational opportunities because of his Chinese origins.  This left Dr. Bing more determined than ever to pursue his dreams.  He left Indonesia and immigrated to the United States in 1969.  Dr. Bing earned his medical specialty degree and after only 5 years, American citizenship. Today, Dr. Bing is among a select group of board-certified plastic surgeons who have attained the highest level of achievement in cosmetic surgical training, continuing education and clinical experience.  

Dr. Bing returned to Indonesia about 10 years after immigrating to the United States.  There he visited medical schools in Bandung, a big university town south of Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, the same medical schools where he taught medical and dental students.  He found the printed educational materials to be the same materials that had been made available to him 10 years earlier.  The materials were 10 – 20 years behind.  This is when Dr. Bing knew that he could make a difference in medical education, and out of it the Dr. Arthur G. H. Bing Family Fund was born.  

Upon returning to the United States, Dr. Bing visited Columbus area medical libraries at Riverside Hospital Hospital, Grant Hospital and St. Ann’s Hospital where he collected medical books and journals that were no longer being used.  The materials were gathered and shipped to three medical education institutions all in Bandung - Pajajaran University, the Christian Maranatha University and Bandung's Central Hospital (the largest teaching hospital in Bandung).  Subsequent visits to Indonesia found the materials that the Dr. Arthur G. H. Bing Family Fund sent were the only materials available to students.  

“My wife always questioned my project: Why would I give back to the University that did not allow me to specialize?   I always told her that if they had not "pushed me out", I would not have ended up in the United States and would not have been so successful!” said Dr. Bing.  

As an American citizen, Dr. Bing feels that his first obligation is to give back to the United States, which is his home - the country where he was allowed to be successful. But he has not forgotten where he came from and feels that his success could help those less fortunate and allow them to have the same opportunities he was granted here in the United States.  Dr. Bing shared his motto for helping others: “In helping developing countries, I believe that it is better to teach them how to fish rather than give them the fish.”     

The Arthur G. H. Bing Family Fund not only collects medical books and journals, it has also begun a program of sponsoring education and training visits to the United States.  The sponsorship of directors and teachers from blood banks in Bandung and Denpasar has proven to be beneficial to both Indonesia and the United States medical training programs.  Dr. Nadjwa Zamalek Dalimoenthe, the head of the Blood Bank and Hematology Division at Hasan Sadikan Hospital, a state-owned enterprise under the Indonesian Ministry of Health located in Bandung, is the most recent visitor. She was in Columbus for a two week period to study blood bank standards and management and also traveled to the national American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) meeting in California.  

Dr. Bing plans to expand his program by involving all local hospitals and universities. His ultimate goal is to expand his effort into a nationwide charitable foundation not only helping Indonesia, but other countries that are in dire need of updated medical education materials; places such as Peru, Kenya and the Philippines.  “Most American physicians at some point will throw away their medical books and journals.  I pick them up and find a second use for them.  The students are so grateful to receive them and I am so thankful to the participating hospitals and physicians in Columbus for helping to make this possible,” said Dr. Bing.       

Dr. Bing credits the Columbus Medical Association Foundation for helping to make it possible to extend medical help to developing countries. Through the flexibility of CMAF Unlimited Dr. Bing has been able to utilize his personalized charitable fund to fulfill his health vision. “The CMAF has been very helpful in facilitating and promoting my charitable work,” said Dr. Bing.   

Work that extends more than 10,000 miles.