Diabetes Clinic serves uninsured
Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine
fills gaps in community care
By Anita Martin and Colleen Kiphart
January 27, 2010
Six years ago,
Robert worked as a plant supervisor in Meigs
County. Although he and his wife, Amy, are both
diabetic, his company insurance eased their
health concerns. “It was good coverage, paid
almost all (medical) costs. We didn’t really
worry about it,” he said.
When the plant
laid him off, Robert and Amy, whose names have
been changed here to protect privacy, had to use
retirement funds to pay for COBRA insurance.
Then COBRA ran out. With their diabetes,
individual insurance would have cost them nearly
$3,000 a month.
“It felt like
the world turned upside-down,” Amy said.
Then in August
2005, Robert and Amy read about a mobile health
van run by OU-COM’s Community Health Programs,
which offer free health care to uninsured
Appalachian citizens. There, nurses connected
the couple with the college’s monthly Diabetes
three months, they return to the Diabetes
Clinic, located in Parks Hall in Athens, Ohio,
for free check-ups.
“I thank God
for that place,” Amy said. “When we hardly have
money to pay the bills, they take us for free,
they supply the medicine—the insulin. It’s
helped us so much.”
Clinic began in November 2006 when local demand
for diabetes care led OU-COM to specialize their
free community health care.
“We saw a need
for diabetes specialists during our regular free
clinic hours,” said Kathy Trace, M.H.A.,
B.S.N., director of OU-COM Community Health
Diana Kasler, R.N., free clinic coordinator,
the clinic currently has about 84 active charts.
Although she did not have an estimate for the
total value of the clinic’s services, she
pointed out that they involve: “office visits,
multiple blood tests, medications, testing
supplies and diabetic education.”
Clinic “offers the total package,” Trace added.
“Patients get a doctor’s visit, health
education, follow-ups and access to
medications.” The clinic is staffed by
volunteers from OU-COM and University Medical
Associates Diabetes Center and funded by grants
from organizations such as the Sisters of Saint
Joseph Charitable Fund and the Ohio Association
of Free Clinics.
At the clinic,
specialized diabetes care is in ready supply.
Frank Schwartz, M.D., J.O. Watson Endowed
Diabetes Research Chair, often works in the
clinic, alongside fellow diabetologist Jay
Shubrook, D.O. (’96), associate professor of
family medicine and director of clinical
“When I first
heard ‘free clinic,’ I figured that they’d herd
you in like cattle, but it’s not like that,”
Robert said. “These guys—Dr. Shubrook and Dr.
Schwartz—are good. And they go out of their way.
They seem like they really do care about you.”
the Diabetes Clinic provides referrals to
doctors who offer volunteer medical services, as
Robert and Amy know well.
fifteen years ago, Amy had a colonoscopy. “I was
having trouble with my stomach, and when I told
them (at the Diabetes Clinic) about that, they
set me up with Dr. Drozek at Doctors Hospital.
He did another colonscopy… and when I woke up
they told me they removed a pre-cancerous polyp
from my colon.”
is an assistant professor of specialty medicine
at OU-COM and a surgeon at Doctors Hospital in
Nelsonville. According to Drozek, Doctors
Hospital offers 100 colonoscopies free to
patients referred from OU-COM’s Free Clinic.
the Diabetes Clinic connected Amy with a
specialist to investigate a fainting spell she
suffered over the summer. She returned late last
year for a stress test to determine whether she
needs a pacemaker.
“I don’t know
what he and I would do without (the free
clinic),” she says. “Kathy (Trace) and all the
people there have done so much for us.”
Diabetes is a
chronic disease characterized by the body’s
inability to process sugars. Type 2, the most
common form of diabetes, results in an inability
to secrete insulin in response to meals. This
form of diabetes is most often associated with
high cholesterol levels and obesity.
Ohio at least 11 percent of the population has
diabetes—three points higher than the rest of
the country. And according to the federal
Appalachian Regional Commission,
diabetes-related deaths in Appalachia are
underestimated by as much at 50 percent.
Schwartz, who also directs the University
Medical Associates Diabetes Center, financial
burden such as loss of employment can increase
the risk for both obesity and diabetes.
ask me what can be done to halt the progress of
diabetes in Appalachia, I always tell them
jobs,” said Schwartz. “When people are stressed,
their bodies hold onto fat. And studies show
that when people aren’t confident in where they
will get their next meal, they tend to eat
emphasized that “there is no stereotypical
patient at the Diabetes Clinic. The only thing
that these people have in common is diabetes.
When people lose jobs, health insurance is often
the first thing to go. And no matter your
financial status, once you have been diagnosed
with diabetes, it can become nearly impossible
to get health insurance.”
agrees, adding that, “with this diabetes clinic,
we can offer our community free, specialized
care when they need it most.”
Diabetic Clinic sees patients every first
Tuesday of the month on the second floor of
Parks Hall in Athens, Ohio. This referral-based
clinic is open to the uninsured and
underinsured. For more information, please call