Fundraising for a Free Medical Clinic

Passing the halfway point working at Matthews Free Medical Clinic (MFMC) has been bittersweet. Being able to experience so much, yet knowing time is fleeting, has left me rather melancholy. In attempts to remain positive, I want to share a very impressionable moment along my journey thus far. As previously explained in my first blog entry, MFMC serves the uninsured and non-elderly (ages 14-64) individuals of Mecklenburg and Union Counties that have family income levels at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. As a free medical clinic, we do not receive reimbursements from private insurances, Medicare, or Medicaid, nor federal or local government funding. This means the Clinic is run 100% on donations and grants. Nearly half of our yearly revenue is raised through our two annual fundraisers: the MFMC Golf Tournament and the Hearts & Hands Benefit. On October 21st, 2017, at Myers Park Country Club, MFMC hosted the 9th Annual Hearts & Hands Benefit: a cocktail dinner complete with silent and live auctions. All proceeds raised provide direct patient care to people in our community that would otherwise go without.

The entire event was a complete success.  The 9th Annual Hearts & Hands Benefit brought in over $55,000 for the Clinic, $10,000 more than the previous year. In addition to assisting with the preparation and execution of the event, I also had the opportunity to create an animation video that was shown to attending guests and is now featured on the Matthews homepage ( <>). Being entrusted to represent both the Clinic and our patients with significant components of the night’s events was incredibly meaningful. Within the video, I illustrated the effect donations have on patients: $150 can provide 10 patients with flu shots, $600 can provide 1 year of care for a patient, and $1000 can provide 50 life-saving cancer screenings to patients. The $50,000 raised will have a profound impact on the expansion of services and access to care our Clinic can offer.

It is impossible to finish this blog entry without thanking my friends and fellow Davidson alumni for volunteering at the event. Andy Baay, Bruno Mourao, Elise Lankiewicz, and Holt Evans took the time out of their weekends to support MFMC. When I graduated Davidson, I was fearful I would lose connections to the people I met at school. Much to my surprise, connections have strengthened, new friendships have formed, and Davidson alumni continue to root for their fellow Wildcats.

Leaving the Davidson Bubble | Starting my Davidson Impact Fellowship at Matthews Free Medical Clinic

Here’s a list of some of my biggest challenges while attending Davidson College:

  • Receiving a 45 out of 100 on my first biology exam (when the range of scores was 45-96)
  • Living with the nickname “sack of potatoes” freshman year, though that was mostly self-induced due to infrequent laundering and a lack of personal grooming enthusiasm
  • Having to attend 8:15am courses
  • Walking into a tree after staying up all night to study for an exam
  • Missing Steph Curry’s campus visit while studying abroad in Shanghai
  • Getting strep throat five times

Adversity for me was walking a few hundred feet with a fever to the College Health Center. Once there, I was able to enter without an appointment, get tested immediately, and subsequently receive medication and a goody bag of chocolate pudding and Gatorade upon diagnosis. Living in Davidson’s bubble, I didn’t think much about how privileged this was. Now having graduated and begun work at Matthews Free Medical Clinic as a Davidson Impact Fellow, I am much more aware of the reality of healthcare access in the Charlotte area, and the superficiality of my “trials and tribulations” as a Davidson College student.

North Carolina is one of the 19 states that decided against expanding Medicaid to childless adults and families with income levels up to 138% of the federal poverty level. Instead, North Carolina’s Medicaid eligibility is reserved for families with income levels at or below 45% of the federal poverty level. Though childless adults and families in North Carolina may be eligible for subsidies if their income levels are between 100-400% of the federal poverty level, there are North Carolinians left in a healthcare coverage gap because they do not qualify for Medicaid or these subsidies. Of non-elderly North Carolinians living under 200% of the federal poverty level, 29% were uninsured as of 2015 (according to Kaiser Family Foundation’s estimates based on the Census Bureau’s March Current Population Survey (CPS: Annual Social and Economic Supplements), 2014-2016)). To put this into perspective, below is the annual income of families at 200% of the federal poverty level:

200% of the Federal Poverty Level

  • Family of 1: $24,120
  • Family of 2: $32,480
  • Family of 3: $40,840
  • Family of 4: $49,200
  • Family of 5: $57,560
  • Family of 6: $65,920

Matthews Free Medical Clinic specifically focuses on this population of uninsured North Carolinians, the uninsured and non-elderly (ages 14-64) individuals of Mecklenburg and Union Counties that have family income levels at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. Our Clinic currently provides free healthcare services to over 300 active patients at any given time. The Clinic is not walk-in, and applicants must meet specific criteria to become accepted as patients.  It is important to note that although the 200% federal poverty level is representative of the Clinic’s ceiling for patient admittance, the average annual income of our patients is far below this. As of early August 2017, the average annual income of Matthews Free Medical Clinic patients was at only 79% of the federal poverty level.  These North Carolinians are financially desperate for healthcare assistance – and Matthews Free Medical Clinic serves them.

Despite being a free medical clinic, we strive to give our patients the same experiences as those received at any other medical facility. Not only does Matthews Free Medical Clinic provide primary care, but with 28 different volunteer providers, the Clinic is able to offer services ranging from cardiology and gynecology, to physical therapy and acupuncture. Patients at Matthews Free Medical Clinic are given consistent care through a permanently assigned primary care physician, who can also provide referrals to specialty and ancillary services.

Within my first two months working at the Clinic, I have analyzed demographic clinical data and presented to the Clinic’s board members, supervised and led renovations of the Clinic during Elevation Church’s Love Week, assisted in the screening process for new patient applications, updated the new patient and recertification screening sheets, assisted in the hiring of a certified medical assistant and more.

It is rewarding to know that my work is helping an organization that is making a difference in the lives of those in my own community. Access to healthcare is a real challenge for so many in the United States. It is a real challenge in North Carolina. Sometimes it takes stepping out of your own bubble to gain perspective. I am very excited about my future as a Davidson Impact Fellow and my remaining time at Matthews Free Medical Clinic.

Leaving the Davidson Bubble | Starting my Davidson Impact Fellowship at Matthews Free Medical Clinic