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More than 300 volunteers keep this Wichita medical clinic running

Physician Sheryl Beard talks with Lorenza Martinez about her medication at Guadalupe Clinic on Monday. On faculty at the family medicine residency program at Via Christi, Beard volunteers one half-day per month at the clinic. (July 10, 2017)
Physician Sheryl Beard talks with Lorenza Martinez about her medication at Guadalupe Clinic on Monday. On faculty at the family medicine residency program at Via Christi, Beard volunteers one half-day per month at the clinic. (July 10, 2017) The Wichita Eagle

When Lorenza Martinez arrives at the clinic, she’s glad to see a familiar face.

She says she’s had no one to help with her health before. Now she has physician Sheryl Beard and a host of staff and volunteers at Guadalupe Clinic.

“The reward is tenfold of what you give,” said Beard, who discussed Martinez’s diabetes with her on Monday.

When Martinez comes back to Guadalupe next month, she hopes Beard will be her doctor again.

Martinez is one of the more than 1,000 new patients seen at Guadalupe every year, and Beard is one of more than 300 volunteers who keep the clinic running. Other Wichita clinics that serve low-income people predominantly have paid staff medical providers, rather than medical volunteers.

At Guadalupe, Beard has seen everything from broken fingers to women’s health issues since she began volunteering in 2006. On faculty at the family medicine residency program at Via Christi, Beard volunteers one half-day a month at Guadalupe.

“The reasoning behind it mostly was just to give back to the community,” Beard said. “There are so many people who don’t get medical care because they can’t afford it. Once you see that and experience that, you want to help in any way you can.”

Visits to Guadalupe are free, although patients can make a $5 donation.

About 40 percent of patients can’t afford the $5 donation.

“You’re deserving of that care just like any of us who are insured,” said David Gear, executive director of the clinic.

It’s those 300 volunteers who allow the clinic to offer free care to the underserved in Wichita. Together, they provide more than 7,700 hours of volunteered time.

The clinic has about 20 paid staff members, the majority of whom work part time.

One volunteer drives to the clinic from Wellington. Several are retired from full-time jobs.

Volunteers come from “all different sectors,” Gear says. Although the clinic is a ministry of the Catholic Diocese of Wichita, volunteers also come from all religious backgrounds. Some are Methodist, some are Jewish, some are Presbyterian, some are Catholic.

The patients are also religiously diverse: 39 percent are Catholic, 29 percent Protestant, 14 percent listed no religion, and 11 percent gave “other” as their religion.

Even with 300 volunteers, the clinic says it could always use more. In particular, it could use a nutritionist, a podiatrist, a social worker, more nurses, counselors and physician assistants. Volunteers who don’t have medical expertise are also needed to help run the front office and do other tasks.

Gear says that by working at Guadalupe, he gets to “do God’s work every day.” By giving their time, volunteers are doing mission work in their own communities, he said.

The volunteers “get to impact people’s lives who otherwise wouldn’t have access to quality health care,” Gear said. “At the end of the day you know you’ve really helped somebody and impacted their life.”

Katherine Burgess: 316-268-6400, @KathsBurgess

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