Dedication of the “Clinic Cottage” addition to the Beersheba Clinic
October 21, 2018
We are mountain people.
We are a boorish set, they tell us
Hard-bitten, coarse of feature and of speech,
Shallow and brawling as the mountain streams,
With morale friable as our sandstone.
All my life I have wanted to tell them:
That we are mountain people,
That mountain streams have pools of deep quietness,
And that beneath the sandstone of our hills
There is granite.
This poem, Mountain People1, was written by our neighbor, Leonard Tate. Leonard’s sister, Ruth Tate Cook, said to me several times, “Dr. Garrett, we really need a doctor here.”
A combination of love for the mountain, audacity, and naiveté led me to think that the Beersheba community could establish and maintain its own health clinic. Yet, for eight years we have done that. On behalf of our friends living in or near Beersheba who make 2,500 visits to the clinic every year, thank you.
Sometime in the early spring of 2008, a dear friend came to our porch with severe acute sinusitis. I said to her, “Josephine, you must get to a doctor immediately!” Her bill from the for-profit hospital she went to was $2,300. I was incensed. I walked over to see my friend Phil Mayhew, and I said, “Phil, we need a medical clinic in Beersheba. What can we do?”
The first Mayhew Porch meeting included a small group of community leaders. A local philanthropist gave us significant early financial support, and a retired lawyer helped us incorporate the clinic.
The Beersheba Springs Medical Clinic was established in 2010 of, for, and by the community of Beersheba Springs, Tennessee as “…a volunteer not-for-profit medical facility (www.beershebaclinic.org) to promote, protect, and improve the health of persons, especially the medically indigent, living in, working in or visiting Beersheba Springs and the surrounding area by providing free comprehensive management of acute illness and chronic disease.”
In the clinic’s eight years we have had approximately 20,000 patient visits. We recently calculated that the average cost of a clinic visit is $46; that comes to nearly a million dollars worth of free care we have given since our founding.
The pain and suffering are real. One day I stepped into an examining room to see a woman with a tooth abscess. She was holding the right side of her face. As I looked in her mouth at the abscessed tooth, she said, “I seen videos about you…I’m so glad that somebody cares.” Then she started crying; I put my arm around her, and I cried too.
Not long ago as I was signing charts, I was startled to notice three charts in a row with a diagnosis of dental abscess. The prevalence of serious dental disease in our population is alarming. Provision of dental services has been a dream that we never thought possible, but thanks to the generosity of people like the congregation of the Beersheba Springs Church of Christ who have just given us this building for a wonderful addition to the clinic, the “Cottage Clinic”; Mr. John Clark of the Carpenters Fund; Dr. Bruce Baird, our dental consultant and volunteer dentist; students from University of the South at Sewanee; the South Cumberland Community Fund and a host of others; the Clinic Cottage is a reality and dental services for clinic patients is now an achievable goal.
Being a part of the Beersheba Clinic and having the opportunity to help our friends and neighbors in the clinic has been a life-changing experience.
But as much as I love the Beersheba Clinic, I know that what my friends and this country need is not charity, but social justice.
We started the Beersheba Clinic not because of a lack of available health care in the area, but because of a lack of affordable healthcare. Clinic patients generally are between 19 and 64 years of age, an age range bookended by Medicaid for children and Medicare for adults. My friends and neighbors were suffering. I knew this intuitively, but since we opened the clinic, and I have witnessed their pain first hand, it has been a profound and enriching experience.
Until we have a national healthcare system that will support all of us equally, the Beersheba Clinic will do all we can to help our friends and neighbors. The financial needs are great.
Our intent for the dental program is that it will be self-sustaining. We will not use clinic operating funds for the dental program.
We need to expand clinic service days to three days: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. That will require a significant increase in funding.
We have great leadership, Dr. Susan Andrews, Medical Director; Kelly Baggett, President of the Board; and Alison Gower, Executive Director. We have a strong, active and loyal board, and a helpful group of Board Advisors. We have a superb staff and amazing volunteers.
The bottom line is sustainability. The clinic’s future depends on continued and increased financial community support. Among the ways to consider giving are regular sustaining gifts and legacies. Gifts to the clinic’s endowment fund are also important. You should know that most patients make donations themselves after a visit. Patient donations account for nearly 20% of our income.
There are sick people here depending on us, and let me say, they are exceedingly grateful, like the woman who told me, “I’m so glad somebody cares.”
On their behalf thank you so much for your support.
1. Tate, Leonard L. All the Lost Octobers and Other Poems. Benjamin H. Caldwell, Jr., and Herschel Gower, eds. Beersheba Springs, TN: Beersheba Springs Historical Society, 1990↩