Latisha Friday knows the importance of keeping kids healthy. She also knows it’s expensive.
So Latisha came to Fairmount Park on Saturday, five children by her side, for A Day of Free Healthcare, a medical mission event led by Via Christi with help from community partners. The children – her two sons and three of their cousins – were seen by a doctor and had a dental screening.
“It’s awesome,” Latisha said. “It’s a big relief to be able to get all these services for free.”
About 210 patients were served during the event, which included health, dental and vision screenings, medical services, behavioral health services, health education, spiritual care and more. Community clinics scheduled follow-up visits for many of the patients.
Via Christi is a part of Ascension, and A Day of Free Healthcare was part of Ascension’s Medical Mission at Home program. The program offers similar healthcare events in markets with Ascension ministries.
“Today is not just a day of service, it’s a day of access for people who you will take care of,” Mike Mullins, Via Christi CEO and Kansas Ministry Market Leader for Ascension, told volunteers during a program to kick off the day. “We have done more than just a ‘one and done.’ We have created an avenue and community services to help people.”
More than 500 volunteers, primarily from Via Christi, Wichita State University, the City of Wichita, and more than two dozen other organizations participated.
“To see that many volunteers extend compassion and free healthcare to residents was awesome,” said Peg Tichacek, chief mission integration officer for Via Christi. “Together we can do so much. I am humbled and grateful to be a part of it.”
One of the volunteers was Shae Brooks, an EMT at Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph, who drove a shuttle bus to transport patients.
Amy Seery, MD, was one of the providers who volunteered, examining pediatric patients in a large medical tent.
“I am here because I love our community,” said Dr. Seery, a faculty member with the Ascension Via Christi Family Medicine Residency program. “I’m excited to find a way to give back, to serve and to make sure everyone in our community can access care and be as healthy as possible.”
Throughout the day, community members – many from the neighborhood directly surrounding Fairmount Park – checked in to access care. Each had his or her own story:
- Marion Wheaton, 39, is a father of three. His children have health insurance through the state, but the temporary construction jobs he works don’t provide insurance. “Not everybody has the means,” he said. “Everybody needs healthcare, but not everyone can pay for it.”
- Pearl Penn, 81, was second in line to receive care. “This is good,” she said of the event. “I would recommend people come out and get checked.”
- Scott Lindquist hadn’t seen a doctor in about a decade. He was screened for vision and dental issues. “Now I know the things I need to take care of,” he said.
- Ferwilda Sears also came for a variety of screenings. “It was wonderful,” she said. “They tested my feet because I’m diabetic, and they told me I was 100 percent good. Everything turned out really well. I am so thankful.”
Just the beginning
Sheryl Baker, Via Christi manager of population health, helped to lead the education efforts for the event.
“It’s just been cool to see different departments – with people who didn’t know each other – come together as a team,” she said. “We’re a family and we can depend on one another. People keep asking, ‘When is this going to happen again? I want to be a part of it.’”
Via Christi leaders are expecting A Day of Free Healthcare to be an annual event. Charity Clark, clinical practice manager who organized the day’s clinical operations, said she’s looking forward to the continued relationships between Via Christi associates and community partners.
“I can’t imagine what God has in store for us to continue to serve together and make a pronounced difference in our city,” Clark said.