Learning from our rich history

As physicians, it is an honor to get to know the patients we help. It is one of the greatest gifts we could receive. Over the years, we have heard many stories that have helped shape who we are not only as health care providers, but as friends, neighbors and contributing members of society. One of my favorite stories is from a patient who grew up in the 1960s in South Carolina. Here’s her story:

20integration.1“A good friend shared with me her initiation into integrating her school way back in South Carolina in 1968. At age sixteen, in grade ten, she attended an all-black school, but was scheduled to split her class in half for the bus ride to the all-white school three miles away. She happened to be the first student off the bus upon arrival at her new school. As she stepped to the pavement she was confronted by a blond pig-tailed girl of similar age and size. That girl spat at her and called her a dirty n____! She wheeled around with equal antagonism and grabbed the girl by the pigtail and hurled her to the ground.

Immediately there was a considerable scuffle and yelling, only to be broken up by teachers who ushered both of the fighters into the principal’s office. The parents of both students were called and they arrived shortly only to continue the war of words. When the heated discussion continued, the principal suggested and invited all four parents into the dining room for lunch. That seemed to calm the situation down considerably, and the parents with their families decided to meet together again the following Friday for supper. And that progressed to monthly meals together throughout the school year. Alternate homes were selected. Later the following spring, the two families decided to bring their harmony and friendship to the school auditorium as an example of better integration practices.”

Although we seem to have come far since the early days of the Civil Rights movement, recent tragedies have brought to light this time in our history all over again. We need to learn from our history and grow as a nation from it. Not into a nation of hate and inequality, but one of unity and strength. No one deserves to be mistrusted by verbal or physical abuse. It is my belief that we in America have reached a higher level of mistrust and tension by resorting to increased protection, arming ourselves with knives, guns and bullets!

Stories like the one from our patient seem simple, but are unique reminders that as humans, all we really want is to be happy, loved, and healthy. It is our duty as a society to help make sure that happens. Our mission at MERCI Clinic is to provide quality health care to people in need. Part of providing that care is to LISTEN to stories like this, LEARN from them and BE THE CHANGE.

Think of what our world would be like if we could all provide that level of care.

submitted by: Dr. Ralph Redding, founding partner of MERCI Clinic

Feeling Good – Patient Success Story “Tyrell”

The MERCI Clinic patients want to tell their story– stories of how the clinic helps them get through the day. Without care from the clinic, they would be without much needed medical and dental care– and life-saving medicine. With no other options, they would be forced to seek care in the emergency room or– just go without. Many can only afford to buy either food for their family or insulin for their diabetes.

Tyrell is a 38 year old patient who is being treated for cavities and facial fillers. Growing up, he never went to the dentist except to have his wisdom teeth extracted; he had never had a cleaning. Tyrell also receives medical care and free prescriptions from the pharmacy at MERCI Clinic. He calculates his medicine bill would be at least $400 per month. He is self-employed and has never had health insurance. His back was recently injured in a car wreck, so he is not able to work much anymore.

Your donations make BIG differences in the lives of so many! No matter how big or small, we make sure to maximize every dollar. In fact, for every dollar donated, we provide $8.25 worth of quality health care for those in need. Please consider making a donation today; it could help save a life!

MAKE A DONATION

Save the Date! August 31 at Carolina Bagel

Carolina Bagel will be offering 10% of their proceeds to MERCI Clinic on Wednesday, August 31 throughout the day! Carolina Bagel has delicious bagels, coffee, and sandwiches; not to mention fantastic muffins and pastries! Thank you to Charley and the rest of the team at Carolina Bagel; we are so grateful for your generosity!

MERCI-Restaurant-Flyer-Bagel

Feeling Good – Patient Success Story “Walter”

The MERCI Clinic patients want to tell their story– stories of how the clinic helps them get through the day. Without care from the clinic, they would be without much needed medical and dental care– and life-saving medicine. With no other options, they would be forced to seek care in the emergency room or– just go without. Many can only afford to buy either food for their family or insulin for their diabetes.

Walter is 52 years old and has been patient for 4 years. He learned about the clinic from word-of-mouth and has friends who are also patients. Walter has heart disease and has been diagnosed with diabetes. He too receives medications from the clinic pharmacy. Walter has attended the free diabetes clinic and learned about healthy cooking, eating and food shopping. He has had health insurance in the past, but recently, his deductible was raised to $10k per year. Unfortunately, he is now unable to work and is in the process of getting disability benefits.

Your donations make BIG differences in the lives of so many! No matter how big or small, we make sure to maximize every dollar. In fact, for every dollar donated, we provide $8.80 worth of quality health care for those in need. Please consider making a donation today; it could help save a life!

MAKE A DONATION

Carolina Bagel New Bern

Save the Date: August 31 at Carolina Bagel

Carolina Bagel New BernCarolina Bagel will be offering 10% of their proceeds to MERCI Clinic on Wednesday, August 31 throughout the day! Carolina Bagel has delicious bagels, coffee, and sandwiches; not to mention fantastic muffins and pastries! Thank you to Charley and the rest of the team at Carolina Bagel; we are so grateful for your generosity!

Feeling Good – Patient Success Story “Danielle”

The MERCI Clinic patients want to tell their story– stories of how the clinic helps them get through the day. Without care from the clinic, they would be without much needed medical and dental care– and life-saving medicine. With no other options, they would be forced to seek care in the emergency room or– just go without. Many can only afford to buy either food for their family or insulin for their diabetes.

Danielle needs medications to control her blood pressure and diabetes. A few years ago, Danielle was laid off from her job when the company downsized. Danielle was forced to go on COBRA, but eventually had to withdraw due to the high cost. With no insurance, she was faced with paying a lot of money for her medications- or going without- so she went without. Obviously, her health declined rapidly until she was referred by a friend to the MERCI Clinic, where her high blood pressure and diabetes issues are being addressed.

Your donations make BIG differences in the lives of so many! No matter how big or small, we make sure to maximize every dollar. In fact, for every dollar donated, we provide $8.80 worth of quality health care for those in need. Please consider making a donation today; it could help save a life!

MAKE A DONATION

Burgers and brews at Beer Army to support MERCI

MERCI-Restaurant-Flyer-BeerArmyBurgers and brews for lunch? For dinner? Umm… YES PLEASE! Join us at Beer Army and enjoy delicious food and drinks. Proceeds from anything you purchase between 11am-10pm will come back to MERCI Clinic to help us in our mission of providing quality health care to those in need. While you’re here, purchase a raffle ticket for your chance to win $20,000! Odds of winning are 1 in 500, ALL raffle ticket proceeds come back to MERCI Clinic! Sounds like a great day to be in downtown New Bern!

Volunteer Orientation

PrimaryOur June Volunteer Orientation will be offered on Friday, June 3 at 10:00am. This is for ALL volunteers (nurses, pharmacy, lab techs, front desk, clerical, etc.). If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, or have recently joined our team and not attended orientation yet, this day is for you! Please complete the online application form PRIOR to coming to the orientation so we have the necessary information.

UPCOMING ORIENTATION DATES:
Friday, August 5 at 10:00am
Friday, October 7 at 10:00am
Friday, December 2 at 10:00am

A fond farewell to Dr. Heffington

Saying goodbye to a dear friend

By Priscilla Miller   

MarkHeffingtonMERCI Clinic has always been a volunteer driven organization, which includes volunteer physicians. MERCI had and still has an excellent group of doctors offering their time and talents, but the process sometimes left the clinic without the needed number of providers. In 2010, Nancy Alexander, then executive director of MERCI Clinic, wrote and was granted funding from the North Carolina Office of Rural Health to offer part time contract services to a primary care provider, which was offered to and accepted by Dr. Mark Heffington. Nancy’s forward thinking changed the clinic process overnight, assuring that a primary care provider was available from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m every Tuesday and Thursday.   

On March 9, 2010, when the clinic doors opened at 8 a.m. for the first time, primary care services were offered through appointments, even for the volunteer physicians who would continue to supplement services as their own schedules would allow. Gone were the days of patients lining up outside the clinic’s front door at 4 a.m., each hoping that he/she would be able to be seen by a physician when the doors opened at 2 p.m. Gone also was the heart wrenching knowledge by the clinic staff and volunteers that those standing in the lines were exposed to hot and humid searing sun on summer days, or freezing cold winds and rains of the winter. Gone were the problems of established patients not being able to access time with a physician because they were not able to secure one of the sacred 20 spots in the first come, first served line; the result being their inability to have their life sustaining medications reviewed and refilled.   

Dr. Heffington moved here from the mountains of North Carolina where he began his career of providing services to those without access to medical care. He was instrumental in founding similar clinics in Cashiers and Highlands and remained on their boards for a number of years. His fluency in Spanish helped him win a grant to provide services to migrant workers, a project called Vecinos Farmworker Health Program. Dr. Heffington began this project in the mountains, traveling from one farm to another. With a medically equipped van, he provided health services to the migrant population who did not have access to care. He continued this program when he relocated to Eastern North Carolina, providing medical care to the migrant population of this area, until 2011 when the funding ran out. Dr. Heffington began as a volunteer primary care provider at MERCI in 2009, as well as Hope Clinic in Bayboro and Broad Street Clinic in Morehead City. These are medical clinics in the area that provide services to the uninsured. Even when contracted with MERCI Clinic, Dr. Heffington continued volunteering at the two other clinics several evenings a month (after working an 8-9 hours day at MERCI).   

Dr. Heffington’s passion for and understanding of this population, his fluency in Spanish, his expertise in primary care and his unflappable manner earned him the Don Lucey Award, presented by the North Carolina Association of Free and Charitable Clinics in 2014. He was also a nominee and high contender for the North Carolina Medical Society’s Doctor of the Year award in 2015. Though he did not win that award, he will always be THE Doctor of 2015 at MERCI Clinic.   

This past week found us having to say a tearful goodbye to Dr. Heffington, a much loved provider and dear friend to all at the clinic as he relocated to another part of the state. Patients, staff and volunteers alike will miss his smile and his sense of humor. The reality of his departure was apparent on Tuesday morning when the familiar hand wave and “good morning, everyone” was missing. Thank you, Dr. Heffington, for being such a positive and understanding presence at MERCI Clinic.