I’m going to break my own rule and name a living person. Usually I write about people who have died, or use pseudonyms for people who are still around to defend themselves;)
Today’s newspaper contained a tribute to a former hospital CEO. (He’s still around and was once my boss – several steps removed.) It quoted another CEO – and he’s the one deserving of my tribute. [Photo of Dr. Kenneth Loving from Access Community Health Centers.]
This being my blog, it starts with my story. I injured my ankle while hiking in the mountains of New Mexico. After treatment in the ED there, I returned home in a bulky Jones splint, on crutches. The ankle didn’t improve. After a few months I went to the Near East Side Community Health Center. I was aided there by my sister’s friend, who was a clinic volunteer. Before I left she extracted a promise from me that I would return to the clinic to volunteer (which I did while still on cutches post-op – and 25 years later I would embark on a healthcare career, with that experience as a volunteer Patient Advocate never leaving my consciousness). The doctor who examined me quickly determined that I needed an orthopedic surgeon. (I had surgery at the precursor to the hospital where I was to work 25 years later. For further coincidence, I am now acting as an informal advocate for a friend who just had ankle surgery with of my former colleagues.)
The clinic later merged with another neighborhood free clinic and eventually became Access Community Health Centers. The hospital CEO became a major fundraiser and advocate for the clinic.
Meanwhile, I went to Mexico to study Spanish while on my way to work in Nicaragua. I lived with a local family and had a roommate. That roommate was a new pre-med grad named Ken Loving. Ken told me he was learning Spanish because he knew why he wanted to be a doctor. He wanted to work in family practice and he wanted to work with marginalized communities. He knew there was a growing issue with lack of access to health care among non-English speakers. He also knew that medical school came with temptations. The crippling debt encouraged students to pick lucrative specialties. [While sources differ re: average salaries, an orthopedic surgeon or interventional cardiologist makes more than double the salary of a family practice doctor.] Ken learned Spanish and volunteered in a rural free clinic in Mexico to give him a lived experience to recall during the next four grueling years of medical school and the years of residency to follow.
Ken followed his plan. He went to med school and became a family practice doctor. He came here (where his grandparents lived) to work at Access Community Health Centers and eventually became the Medical Director. He is now the CEO. The center continues to bring quality care to the people who can’t otherwise afford it. He continues to realize the vision he told me about in 1988. While I seldom see him any more, I am proud to call him a friend, and will never forget the Mole Poblano Tour of 1988. The half-fast cycling club salutes Dr. Kenneth Loving.
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