success stories

A Success Story That All Communities Can Imitate
and Which Follows the Gospel to a T

Free medical clinic helps Illinois community
By Paul Storer
Catholic News Service

The volunteers at a free medical clinic in Joliet felt compelled to donate their time and services for the same reason: to provide health care services to those who didn't have health insurance.

Dr. James Dennis Wright, for example, is an internist at Provena St. Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, and has been practicing medicine in the Joliet area for 22 years. He volunteers his services as a primary care physician at the Will Grundy Medical Clinic, saying it makes him feel good to "help people who otherwise wouldn't have received help" and it enables him to do something for the community that has supported him.

Wright, a parishioner of the Cathedral of St. Raymond Nonnatus in Joliet, treats 10-20 patients a day at the clinic for illnesses ranging from seizure disorders to heart disease.

Generally, patients with chronic medical problems need to be monitored carefully in order to prevent long-term complications, he said.

"Regular visits where they can receive education are a lot of what is needed to help the patients control their blood sugar level at home," he added.

The doctor stressed the importance of having a service such as the Will Grundy site for patients who lack adequate health care because they have menial jobs without benefits. Since he started volunteering, Wright said the number of patients has increased along with the need for adequate health care.

"The need for this is growing. More and more people don't have insurance," he told the Catholic Explorer, diocesan newspaper of Joliet.

Wright said the entire community has assisted the work of the clinic, with many medical professionals and area businesses contributing to its success.

The clinic opened in 1988 after a group of concerned health care providers in the Joliet area came together with a desire to help area residents who did not have health insurance and were not receiving quality medical treatment.

Each year the clinic, with about 40 volunteer physicians, serves about 1,000 people. The clinic also provides dental services. Last year, 19 dentists and five dental assistants provided care for more than 400 patients.

Catherine Ferrario is one of nearly 40 volunteer registered nurses at the clinic. Ferrario, who previously assisted in emergency medicine, has a history of volunteer service. Over the years, she has volunteered at a homeless shelter and at an inner-city clinic in Chicago.

"The patients are so grateful," she said. "It is rewarding to us to know we are helping someone who really needs it."

Franciscan Sister Albert Marie Papesh, the new president of the board of the Will Grundy Medical Clinic, said the clinic "has really blossomed."

When she walks through the halls of the clinic and catches a glimpse of the donated equipment and witnesses the dedication of the staff she admitted, "being president is a humbling thought."

She said her involvement with the clinic fulfills the mission of the Sisters of St. Francis to help the poor and those in need.

"I'm glad for an opportunity here in the city of Joliet to be able to work God's mission," she said.

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Contributing to this story were Amisu M. Estrada and Kathrynne Skonicki.