Doctors’ Volunteer Efforts are a Labor of Love

In addition to taking care of patients at Westshore Primary Care, James Ohliger, DO, has been looking out for a special group of patients at the Lorain County Free Clinic since 1989. “I’m trying to help folks who have no medical insurance and have fallen through the cracks,” says Dr. Ohliger. Due to economic reasons, many people have to choose between food, utilities, housing, warm clothing for their children, or healthcare. Often times, the latter does not make the cut.

Once every month, Dr. Ohliger goes to Lorain to visit a homeless clinic or a Catholic Charities location where he sees as many as 10 patients in a three-to-four hour period. He’s among a group of 36 physicians and nurse practitioners who volunteer to see patients on a regular rotation.

Created in 1986, the Lorain County Free Clinic bridges the gap between adults without health insurance and the healthcare services they need. The organization coordinates community resources for low-income, uninsured residents of Lorain County, providing them comprehensive healthcare at low or no cost. The Free Clinic provided more than $3.4 million worth of medical care with more than 6,000 patient service encounters in 2012.

“We deal with everything from colds to chronic illnesses, such as diabetes,” Dr. Ohliger says. “We can offer medical care from primary care and beyond.” If specialty care is needed, there is a cadre of 75 specialists here patients can be referred for follow. Local hospitals also offer imaging and diagnostic services for Free Clinic patients.

“There’s a great atmosphere at the medical clinic. The ancillary staff medical is great,” says Dr. Ohliger. “They are the nuts and bolts of the operation, and they deserve the greatest of praise.” Why has Dr. Ohligher come back to the Free Clinic every month since 1989?

“I am trying to give a little back,” he says. “There’s definitely an element where you receive more in return than what you give.

“What I like the best is the opportunity to develop ongoing relationships with patients over a period of time” he says, noting that he was able to maintain the continuity of care of some of his Sheffield Village office patients who had fallen on hard times.

“It is a real privilege to be an instrument for someone who is experiencing difficulties,” he says. “It makes it all worthwhile.” He has witnessed patients overcome substance abuse, make dramatic recoveries and turn their lives around – all because the Free Clinic was there to help. “There’s a great deal of satisfaction,” he says.

“I like that this work is consistent with my mission and actions,” he says, citing seemingly impossible situations in which he turned to prayer. “With prayer, everything comes together. Grace and prayer can truly work when you are up against a wall,” he says.

“As Mother Teresa said, ‘Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.’”

To learn more about the Lorain Free Clinic, go to www.lcfreeclinic.org.

Send email to wjohliger@aol.com.