By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – The Manos Juntas Free Clinic, located in Oklahoma City, recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. The Clinic is currently in the process of opening a new combined office and clinic near south Western and I-240.
Founded in 1995, the concept of Fundación Manos Juntas (Joined Hands Foundation) was the brainchild of Dr. Boyd Shook and his daughter, the Rev. Dr. Kathy McCallie. The Manos Juntas Free Medical Clinic became a reality through their desire to help the poor and underprivileged gain access to proper medical care.
Since its inception, the Manos Juntas Free Clinic has been treating people each Saturday for free who have no insurance and are unable to afford an examination by a physician or purchase their medicines.
As the founder, president and medical director of Manos Juntas, Shook is a practicing physician and native Oklahoman. Specializing in Internal Medicine, he practiced Hematology and Oncology for 25 years. He has worked as a medical director for the Central Oklahoma Medical Group and as Chief of Ambulatory Care at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
“This move will allow us to expand our clinic services,” said Dr. Shook. “We have leased a building that has a lot of parking space and will offer the opportunity to be more efficient.
“We plan on offering some weekday services as well as the free clinic on Saturday,” Shook added. “Sometimes during the free clinic, we identify patients who need more extensive evaluation than we can perform in the brief amount of time allotted. We can thus ask those people to return during the week when we can offer at no cost a more thorough evaluation.”
The Oklahoma City clinic first began in the library of Epworth United Methodist Church and later moved inside the Penn Avenue Church in 2015.
“We have added capabilities including ultrasound and electrocardiography,” Shook said. “This represents an increase in the services that we offer to the city and surrounding area. This program will continue to reduce the amount of healthcare expense sustained by the local emergency rooms.”
Shook says people who cannot afford healthcare will receive an evaluation and medication.
“The hope is that we might be able to obtain more physicians for donation of a few hour’s time to assist in this provision of care,” Shook said.
The new building is located at 1145 West Interstate 240 Service Road.
“The access is convenient,” Shook said. “We continue to request donations to assist in provision of the services.”
Statistics show that the Oklahoma City metro has grown by over 14 percent in the past decade.
“This booming growth creates a unique set of public health challenges for the city,” said Manos Juntas volunteer physician, Dr. Richard Paul Meier.II, who was mentored by Dr. Shook and will begin his Internal Medicine residency July 1 in New York.
“Tens of thousands of new workers means an influx of residents without health insurance and a growing need for primary medical care, medication and health education,” Meier said. “Manos Juntas is a nonprofit free clinic that’s been meeting that need in Oklahoma City for more than 25 years.”
Kris Barnes, former Manos Juntas executive director said, “The mission of Manos Juntas is to break the cycle of poverty by providing access to healthcare so people don’t have to choose between basic needs and buying medicine that they need to stay alive. We meet our mission by providing medical care, medications, diabetes testing supplies, laboratory exams, and specialty referrals.
“The patient flow begins with signing in, they are entered into our medical records system, then the patients are triaged,” Barnes continued. “Every patient has their vital signs checked, basic medical history is taken, and they are examined that day.
“All diabetes patients have their glucose checked at every clinic visit. Then they are seen by our primary care physicians,” Barnes added. ” Patients can then go to the pharmacy and have their prescriptions filled.”
Shook said, “We provide medications for free to each one of these patients. Many of the programs designed to help the poor have left these people out, so we had to create a totally free clinic. Among our patients, a $4 prescription is still beyond their reach. By giving them free medication, we’ve found that they are very cooperative, they respond extremely well, and they’re very grateful for what we are able to provide for them.”
Bob Benson, a Manor Juntas patient for over 11 years said, “Manos Juntas has been very important to my life because the medicines I take are lifesaving. I wasn’t working and I needed my blood sugar medicines. I don’t have insurance and don’t have the means to get them anywhere else. If it weren’t for Manos Juntas I don’t know where I would turn to get the medicines I need.”
According to Shook, the clinic has served over 25,000 patients in the past 25 years.
“These patients are very diverse in their ethnicity and come from many different countries and cultures,” Shook said. “The one thing they have in common is that they all need healthcare. We will see anyone as a patient, regardless of their background or how they got here.”
Shook points out that the patients aren’t the only beneficiaries of Manos Juntas clinic.
“Each week a large team of students gets the ‘hands on’ experience they need to be culturally competent doctors, nurses, pharmacists and health care workers,” Shook said.
“One of my goals has always been to tell the volunteers when you get out into practice remember what you’re learning here.” Shook added. “How they interact with the patients at a cultural level is something they take with them to medical school.”
Anoushka Mullasseril, a Manos Juntas volunteer of the year stated, “It’s just been a wonderful experience. I’ve been able to really understand the specific needs of patients here in Oklahoma. This is a very special place.”
Dr. Meier stated, “I got my start in healthcare as a volunteer here at Manos Juntas more than a decade ago and I wouldn’t be the physician I am today if it weren’t for Dr. Shook’s mentorship and all the ways that Manos Juntas taught me to love evidence-based, patient-centered care.
“So, I’m asking you to join us right now in saving more lives,” Meier added. “Together we’ll create a more thriving Oklahoma City.”
Manos Juntos Free Clinic is currently not seeing patients. However, patients can pick up medications for refills. Call 405-605-3101 on Saturday morning beginning at 9 a.m. When the clinic opens in early July, CDC guidelines will be followed regarding COVID-19.