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Dr. Oz visits Mooresville to promote free clinics

MOORESVILLE — Free clinics have a friend in Oz.
Dr. Mehmet Oz — heart surgeon turned talk-show host — visited Mooresville on Thursday to advocate for free clinics. He spoke to members of the Free Clinic Associations in North and South Carolina in the afternoon. That night, he was a guest for a fundraising event for Mooresville’s HealthReach Community Clinic.
Krista Woolly, Julianna Parrish and Emily Patterson attended the event from the Community Care Clinic. The Salisbury clinic was notified in May of a mid-October visit by Oz, Woolly said.
According to Rory Crawford, HealthReach’s clinic director, Oz has a long friendship with the Mack family of Mooresville. This is Oz’s third visit to Mooresville, Crawford said, and it always helps to build awareness about free clinics.
“Free clinics are not going to buy advertising to promote the fact that we’re here,” Crawford said, “but patient word-of-mouth referral works great for us.”
Woolly, Parrish and Patterson were pleased with what Oz had to say.
“I felt like he had a really good handle on the free clinic world,” said Woolly, Community Care Clinic’s executive director. “He keeps himself up-to-date. I didn’t disagree with anything he said about free clinics.”
In recent years, Oz has visited free clinics.
“I learned things you practice all the time,” he said. “I learned that the people you see have jobs but don’t have insurance. I learned they’re ashamed, and they don’t need to be. I learned they’re working as hard as they can, and often, they don’t take care of themselves.”
He recounted working with one man who had a sore foot. He was a truck driver, who faced losing his leg. He did not, and was able to return to work.
Oz said that free clinics boast an average return of $6 in services for every $1 donated. In Salisbury, that number is $8.
“It deserves to be applauded,” Oz said of the work of free clinics.
Oz pointed out that the Affordable Care Act did not erase the need for free clinics.
“We still have 30 million Americans who will fall through the cracks like they always have,” he said. “These folks feel like they don’t matter, that they’re invisible. You have looked into their eyes and said, ‘I care.’ That means a lot to people.”
Oz answered questions submitted earlier by the clinic staffs.
He talked about the use of artificial sweeteners for someone with diabetes (just use the sugar), promising new medicines to treat neuropathy (B12 might also be beneficial), and how to tackle obesity for patients with little resources (teach them to make healthy choices for the same amount of money).
Oz pointed out that the three top causes of obesity are soft drinks, potato chips and breakfast cereals.
He was also asked how to talk to a patient about high blood pressure.
“I use metaphors a lot on my show,” he said. “For a lot of our audience, we are the primary healthcare providers. It’s a sad commentary, but it’s a responsibility.”
Oz said he likens high blood pressure to a damaged fire hose. Nobody wants damage in their body, he said. He also terms LDL the “lousy” cholesterol and HDL the “healthy cholesterol.” You want as little LDL as possible, and as much HDL as possible.
“These are fairly accurate metaphors,” he said. “Then it’s a pretty straightforward message from there.”
He was also asked about smoking cessation techniques.
Oz said it’s important not to beat someone up for smoking. Instead, he’ll tell a patient, “Love yourself as much as your family loves you.”
He said that medications used to help someone stop smoking carry about a 40 percent success rate, as opposed to the cold-turkey success rate of 5 percent. And most smokers attempt to quit six times before they succeed.
Patterson was especially excited to see Oz. She has worked for the Community Care Clinic since June 30. She graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in May with a degree in exercise and sport science. She assists Dr. David Smith, the medical director, with setting up outside appointments for patients and securing their care. She hopes to attend physician’s assistant school in two years.
Her friends may wonder why Patterson works for so little money, but she said she enjoys getting to hear each patient’s story, and learn about what led them to the clinic.
“A lot of these people have been very successful, and have had circumstances out of their control, and they need some help,” she said. “I enjoy building relationships with patients and remembering something about them for the next time they come and visit. I enjoy waking up and going to work every day. I’m also here to learn.”
And she was validated by what Oz said about the caring staffs of free clinics.
“Sometimes I get behind,” she admitted. “But sometimes our patients need someone to talk to, and I take the extra five minutes to do that.”
For more information about the Community Care Clinic, call 704-636-4523, or visit www.communitycareofrowan.org.

Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.

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