Twenty-five years after Franciscan Health Catherine McAuley Clinic first opened its doors, staff members and volunteers swapped recollections and enjoyed a slice of cake.
The understated celebration on March 11 was in character for the volunteer-based medical clinic that has quietly gone about providing primary care to the medically underserved and uninsured. The Franciscan Health Foundation has launched an anniversary fundraiser to continue the clinic’s work.
“Our mission from the beginning until now has been to serve the people that don’t have access to healthcare,” said McAuley Clinic Board President Helen Thoesen, who trained the volunteers and worked the front desk when the clinic first opened.
“Everyone is treated with kindness and dignity,” she said. “Patients have said they’ve never had as good healthcare as they had at McAuley Clinic.”
Thoesen credited Nurse Practitioner Martha Kozub, who also has been with the clinic since the beginning, wearing many hats, including clinic manager. Kozub is fluent in Spanish, assisting with care for the Hispanic community. “Martha, she’s really the reason the clinic is such a wonderful place,” she said.
Nurse Practitioner Kozub recalled that the clinic didn’t have computers at the beginning, relying on paper charts and files. “We’ve seen lots of changes, ups and downs,” she said. “We’ve been fortunate that we’ve had our volunteers.”
While nurse practitioners and medical assistants provide much of the day-to-day care at the clinic, volunteer physicians also come to see patients. “It’s lifesaving for many, because issues such as diabetes and high blood pressure are prevalent in the population we serve, and if they don’t have treatment, it creates life-threatening issues,” Thoesen said.
Retired physician Art Branco, MD, assisted the Franciscans in setting up the clinic and continues to serve on the board and assist with fundraisers. He credits the clinic’s success to the volunteer medical staff and professional nursing staff he calls his
heroes. “In a time of stress, they continue to do their job. I think it’s one of the resources that, over 25 years, has served the community well,” Dr. Branco said.
The continued safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the Franciscan Health Foundation from having the annual “Rolling for a Reason” bowling fundraiser for the McAuley Clinic. But the needs of patients don’t stop, so contributions are being requested to commemorate the clinic’s 25th anniversary.
Franciscan Health Foundation Executive Director Rick Peltier said, “COVID has forced the cancellation of events and in-person gatherings, but we have learned that generosity can never be cancelled. Our loyal McAuley Clinic friends and supporters have continued to help our providers make a difference for the vulnerable patient population the clinic serves. We have been blessed for our philanthropic partnerships through 25 years of tremendous community impact and transformational change.”
Contributions to the McAuley Clinic can be made by going online at FranciscanHealthFoundation.org/programs/catherine-mcauley-clinic or calling (219) 661-3401. One hundred percent of donations will make a direct impact on the vulnerable patient population that depends on the McAuley Clinic for their medical needs.
Franciscan Health Catherine McAuley Clinic is located at 5530 Hohman Ave. in Hammond and is open Monday through Friday. For more information or to make an appointment, call (219) 933-2018.