In 1991, Genesee County was suffering from population and job loss due to the flight of General Motors. Many were finding themselves without medical insurance and therefore, without a place to go when ill. As the population became sicker and sicker without any hope for care, local physician, Dr. M. Nagaraju, looked for an answer to a growing problem. He started a small free clinic in the city for those living in poverty and lacking insurance. Run completely on donations and through partnerships with multiple organizations, the Genesee County Free Medical Clinic (GCFMC) provides primary care services to those in need in Flint and the surrounding communities. In 2001, the clinic expanded service and moved into its current location at 2437 Welch Blvd. in Flint.
Currently, with a staff of six and many medical professional volunteers, the clinic serves over 3,000 patients a year – and the number is growing. “We serve as a primary health care provider until we can help a patient get insurance,” informs Executive Director, Stacey Doyle. “We check and monitor blood pressure, cholesterol levels, help with diabetes – anything from a flu or a cold to broken bones. If hospital care is needed, we send the patients to Hurley Medical Center, which is one of our partners.” In order to help their patient population medically, the GCFMC partners with Hurley, McLaren Flint and Ascension Genesys. To help patients find insurance – one of the clinic’s goals – they partner with Healthy Michigan Plan, Blue Cross/Blue Shield and HAP. “It seems impossible, but all the help we get is amazing,” says Doyle. “Hurley supplies us with a grant. Ascension helps with our pharmacy and we get medical residents and faculty physicians through McLaren.”
GCFMC also serves as a place of learning for medical residents from McLaren Flint, under the tutelage of GCFMC Medical Director, Dr. Radhika Kakarala. Dr. Kakarala believes that the GCFMC is a needed learning experience for those training to become a medical professional. “Our patients are amazing people and very inspiring,” she says. “They teach me and our residents what it means to care and how to care for others. Our patients have very little, but they still find ways to provide whatever they can to the clinic with a dollar here and there. They are willing to change their lifestyle to improve their overall well being. It’s very inspiring.”
“We just couldn’t do this without the whole community coming together.
We are very thankful for all the help we receive.”
Stacey Doyle, Executive Director
In addition to the medical residents supplied by McLaren, the GCFMC receives help from a dedicated group of volunteer pharmacists, nurses and physicians. Stepping up to provide free care for patients are partnering organizations including Regional Medical Imagery, McLaren Labs, Greater Flint Imaging, Family Care Plus PT & Wellness, and First Presbyterian Church, just to name a few. Mark Knight, DDS has donated dental services and Dr. Allen Turcke has provided oversight and leadership as board president for over 18-years. Much of the clinic’s funding (about 1/3 of the cost) is provided by the annual Healing Hands 5K Run/Walk benefit that takes place in late May. The benefit is organized by the Genesee County Medical Society Alliance & Pi Delta Chapter of STTI Nursing Honor Society. The generous legacy gifts of community physicians such as Dr. Ganatra and Dr. Desai have been instrumental in supporting clinic’s mission. All of the help the GCFMC receives from the community is not lost on Director, Stacey Doyle, and she is grateful. “We just couldn’t do this without the whole community coming together,” she states. “We are very thankful for all the help we receive.”
The GCFMC is looking to expand their services and are working with Hurley Food Pharmacy as well as the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan to provide a mobile food pantry for patients to help eliminate health complications due to unhealthy diet. They have added a lifestyle clinic offering tools to help with depression, exercise, nutrition, stress management and more. A dedicated women’s clinic addresses all aspects of women’s health. The clinic is looking to expand service hours but currently lacks the volunteers to do so. “Our patient population is growing. I hope we can do it soon,” adds Doyle.
It is important to note that GCFMC is NOT an emergency room and operates on an appointment-only basis for all services. Patients eligible for help at GCFMC must be uninsured, a Genesee County resident and between 18-65 years of age. Potential patients must provide a current driver’s license or state ID, and Social Security card (if you lack identification, call GCFMC and they can put you in touch with the services you need to rectify the situation). Income requirements are also in effect. If you would like more information concerning eligibility or would like to make an appointment, call 810.235.4211.
The Genesee County Free Medical Clinic is there to help those who need it most. They rely upon the strength of the community to provide the very best care possible, absolutely free – and the community of Genesee County has responded in a big way. “It’s amazing,” adds Doyle. “It truly is a whole city and county effort. Genesee cares.”
Volunteers and Supplies Needed
GCFMC receives a great amount of help but is constantly in need of volunteers and supplies. Currently, GCFMC is in need of more pharmacists, nurses and physician volunteers, as well as a clerical (front desk) volunteer and someone to provide building maintenance. GCFMC is also in need of water, garbage supplies, cleaning supplies and sanitizers. Please refrain from donating open medications, feeding tubes or CPAP machines as the clinic cannot use them. If you would like to help, please contact the clinic or visit GCFMC.org.
Photography by Kayce McClure