Re-Discovering the Power of Healing
“This reminds me of why I went into medicine in the first place,” remarked Dr. Louis Giorgi, Jr., as he reflected on his weekly volunteer time at the Order of Malta Clinic of Northern California.
“My volunteering makes me feel like I’m the one being served at the end of the day,” Dr. Giorgi said. “There’s something about sharing the gifts you’ve been given and acquired. In fact, this is what medicine is supposed to be,” he said, reflecting on what brought him to the clinic the very first time.
Dr. Giorgi, a urologist, never regained the full use of his hands after a tragic accident, in which he lost his beautiful young daughter. After a series of surgeries, he found he needed a new calling when it came to making a difference. Some of the fine motor skills for performing surgery and even placing a catheter were gone, but the intellect and years of medical experience were not lost. His powerful motivation to heal others and to help make a difference in the community remained.
It all began at a school function at Oakland’s Cathedral of Christ the Light, where Dr. Giorgi was drawn into conversation with Father Javier Diaz after Mass. He learned about the nearby “little clinic that could”—a special place was in dire need of his expertise.
The clinic’s patients, whether homeless, immigrants or the working poor, are uninsured, vulnerable and in need. They are also incredibly grateful for the opportunity to receive free medical care with no questions asked.
To offer such expertise without charge, the clinic depends upon many to give of their time and talents. It is these valued and dedicated volunteer medical specialists like Dr. Giorgi who keep the clinic going. In fact, giving half a day of their time a week is the fuel of the clinic’s engine.
A Mini Mayo Clinic
The clinic provides access to multiple specialists: gynecologists, neurologists, otolaryngologists, ophthalmologists, endocrinologists, pulmonologists and more. It’s a mini-Mayo Clinic of sorts. Imagine the healing potential that arises from the collaboration of an internist, family doctor, cardiologist, orthopedic surgeon, podiatrist and dermatologist, each coming together across their specialties to focus on the needs of one person.
“That’s what the real vocation is meant to be,” said Dr. Giorgi. In fact, this cross-pollination from one-on-one conversations with other doctors at the clinic is one of the most rewarding aspects of his volunteer time.
Patients typically come to the clinic with multiple medical problems that have been neglected and undiagnosed for many years. With the help of the clinic, these uninsured patients receive care and medications they couldn’t otherwise afford, immunizations, colon cancer screenings, mammograms, and access to medical specialists all in one place, often on the same day.
Access to Affordable Medication and Free Procedures
Acute treatment for infectious diseases is also part of the daily routine of the clinic’s staff. Without access to medical care, issues as common as strep or influenza can become life-threatening quickly and affect both entire families and communities.
Chronic diseases left untreated can shorten life spans, or even be fatal. Access to medicines and procedures is critical for patients with such conditions. “Running your car with dirty oil or never changing your oil makes a difference,” added Dr. Giorgi. Many people that come to the clinic suffer from high blood pressure and diabetes but have never had access to medication or treatment. Fortunately for these patients, the clinic is able to prescribe medication, offer free labs and x-rays, and provide access to diabetic nurses and nutritionists – all of which help save lives.
A Message to Physicians: Join Us
“The impact and need is so great that I am motivated to grow the reach of the clinic so that the underserved, the marginalized, and otherwise vulnerable and challenged are getting the care they need,” said Dr. Giorgi. “I’m like Uncle Sam. ‘We want you’ is my message to the medical community. What I mean by that is we want you to come and volunteer as a doctor half a day a month.”
Dr. Giorgi knows that expanding the capacity and reach of the clinic is a community priority that can benefit many. However, volunteers like Dr. Giorgi know that they are recipients as well, inspired by their patients’ appreciation and the poignant reminder of why they heeded the call of the practice of medicine in the first place.