By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
Fundación Manos Juntas (Joined Hands Foundation) is a free health care endeavor started by Dr. Boyd Shook and his daughter, Rev. Dr. Kathy McCallie. The desire to help the poor and the underprivileged motivated them to create the Manos Juntas Free Medical Clinic in Oklahoma City.
In 1995, Manos Juntas opened its doors in the basement of the Epworth Methodist Church, located at 1901 N. Douglas. Patients are seen at the clinic on a drop in basis to receive free health care and medicine on Saturday mornings from 8 – 11:30 a.m.
Medical services include examination by volunteer physicians, medications, laboratory tests, management of chronic illness, and healthcare referrals if needed at no cost.
Dr. Shook, clinic president said, “We have had an incredible increase in patients during the last few years. We were treating 60 patients or so each Saturday. Now we average 160 patients but we’ve hit 200 several times. One year ago, we had 400 diabetic patients, as of today we have 1500.”
Funded by grants and donations and staffed by a large contingent of volunteers, the clinic provides the necessary assistance to offer these free services to a growing volume of patients at no cost, regardless of insurance, income, origin, age, sex, race, or religion.
Former board member Theresa Rendon said, “If you arrive at the doors of Manos Juntas as early as 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. you will see patients lining up desperate for medical treatment. Everyone is seen; no one is turned away.”
Studies show that people lacking a consistent source of health care are less likely to receive preventive health services, such as routine check-ups and screening for chronic conditions. As a result, diseases and illnesses are often worse by the time low-income or uninsured patients seek treatment.
Clinic volunteer Dr. Peter Gismondi said, “It is a real pleasure coming to Manos Juntas and working along with Dr. Shook to give a physician’s touch to needy people looking for medical care.”
Patient demographics include about 45 percent Hispanics, 25 percent Vietnamese, and 30 percent other ethnicities.
“Our diabetic class meets on Monday evenings at 6 p.m. for education about managing diabetes, because our Saturday load is too much,” said Shook. “We get a ton of people who are just released from prison.”
He said a vast amount of the prison referrals are woman noting that Oklahoma is #1 in the nation for female incarceration.
“Oklahoma is such a wonderful state, why do we do some of these things. We have some characteristics that are really reprehensible,” Shook said.
A native Oklahoman, Dr. Shook specializes in Internal Medicine and has practiced Hematology and Oncology for over 25 years. He served as a medical director for the Central Oklahoma Medical Group and as Chief of Ambulatory Care at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
For many underprivileged members of the community the clinic represents their only source of routine medical care.
“It’s been an amazing thing that we are working hand in glove with the Affordable Care Act or Obamaacare – we don’t shrink from that word,” Shook said. “We let patients know it’s also the Affordable Care Act.”
The clinic makes documents available to patients explaining the ACA and the five levels of coverage.
“With the Silver plan they’ll get their tax credits, its going to be partially subsidized and they’ll get an insurance policy they can afford,” he said. “We have been pushing for that and believe in it very strongly. I’m amazed at the number of people who have already been able to get signed up.”
The Manos Juntas Foundation represents people joining hands and working together to break the cycle of poverty through healthcare and education.
“With only volunteer doctors and medical technicians, on Saturdays the Manos Juntas Free Clinic is able to serve as many clients as most of the other free medical clinics in Oklahoma City combined,” said former board member Nathaniel Batchelder.
“Their Nicaragua medical missions each year and scholarship program for select students in Nicaragua has helped thousands of families to better health and students to continue their education with some students becoming doctors and nurses,” Batchelder added.
Shook added, “There’s some exciting stuff going on and I’m enthusiastic about it and I think we are making progress.”
For more information visit www.manosjuntas.com