By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
One in five people in Oklahoma County don’t have health insurance. That rate is higher than the state average. Considering that statewide Oklahomans have some of the worst rates of diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses, it is clear that making access to quality medical care is critical.
Exacerbating the need for health care access, Oklahoma County’s poverty level reached an all time high of 17.6 percent in 2011.
In its fifth decade providing health care to Oklahoma City’s underserved populations, Good Shepherd Ministries of Oklahoma was recently chosen by the Variety Care Foundation to receive the Bertha Levy Health Care Advocate Award.
Located in downtown Oklahoma City, Good Shepherd volunteers staff a medical clinic, dental clinic, clothes closet, food pantry and offer personal assistance to people with physical and spiritual needs.
“Good Shepherd Ministries has helped thousands of Oklahomans access health care that they otherwise could not afford,” said Variety Care Foundation executive director Andrew Rice.
“For years, they were known to be one of the only options for charitable dental care in Oklahoma City,” Rice said. “The Variety Care Foundation looks to honor organizations and individuals with this award who share our values, and the quality and compassion of Good Shepherd’s medical and dental services match our mission as well.”
The award, presented at the Variety Care Foundation Diamond Donor event, is named for trailblazer Dr. Bertha Levy. Her extensive career included decades of service as a physician at Variety Health Center, the precursor to Variety Care, now Oklahoma’s largest community health center.
Long recognized as one of Oklahoma City’s premier community service ministries, Good Shepherd was created in the late 1960’s through the commitment of First Baptist Church of Oklahoma City.
In 1977, Good Shepherd expanded its ministries when FBC Pastor Tom Mitscher and two University of Oklahoma medical students became aware of the medical needs of many downtown residents. Those students are now Doctors Fred Loper and Stan Corley.
A makeshift clinic was opened at Chuck and Chris’s Bar in downtown Oklahoma City.
Since then the clinic has operated on a part-time basis through the efforts of volunteer licensed medical professionals, students and others.
Previously offering dental care only to adults, in 2003, Good Shepherd began offering a children’s dental clinic to provide cleanings and fillings.
In 2012 Dr. Loper became the clinic’s first paid staff member as its full-time Medical Director.
“Mentioning the ministry of Good Shepherd Medical and Dental Clinics in the same breath with Dr. Bertha Levy’s work is an honor of and by itself,” said Loper.
Dr. Levy died in 2007 at age 92, and the award was created that year. Previous winners include The Sarkeys Foundation, philanthropist Cassie Bowen, and former First Lady Kim Henry.
“To be chosen to receive the Bertha Levy Health Care Advocate Award is beyond anything we could have imagined,” Loper added. “We are striving hard each day to measure up to the standard set by Dr. Levy and other past recipients of the award.”
The Good Shepherd Day Clinic, located in the Ramirez Center, 222 NW 12 Street, is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The Evening Clinic is available on Mondays and Tuesdays. Appointments are required.
A Good Shepherd Clinic patient summed up the feelings of many when he said, “Dr. Loper and the Good Shepherd Clinic are a Godsend. Without them, I don’t think I would be alive.”
For more information call 405-232-8631 or visit www.goodshepherdokc.org