The 15th year anniversary of the Ashland Free Medical Clinic: San Lorenzo, CA
The Ashland Free Medical Clinic (AFMC) was established on January 8th, 2005, and came under the auspices of the Sathya Sai International Organization (SSIO) in 2006. The San Lorenzo community was chosen as a location, based on a public health survey that demonstrated many unmet needs, one of them being lack of access to affordable healthcare. The AFMC has since filled a major gap in this community. In its fifteen years, the AFMC has had twenty-two thousand patient visits, and has provided both adult and pediatric primary care services and specialty care, including dermatology, infectious disease, general surgery, ophthalmology, physical therapy, audiology, nephrology and otolaryngology (ear, nose, and throat).
Patients can also get free eye exams, free cataract surgeries and free mammograms which are arranged with a local medical facility. Dental care is provided at no cost by volunteer students at a local dental school. The Pediatric clinic has provided free immunizations and the adult clinic provides free flu vaccine for adults, courtesy of the local public health department. The clinic has operated with volunteers, seven hundred and twenty of them, including members from the SSIO, the local community, and healthcare professionals from local healthcare systems.
Sathya Sai Baba once said, “Make love the capsule that you offer to your patients. When a weak patient comes to you, do not be content with offering him glucose or some other thing. Give him the injection of love. That will give him instant strength. Speak to him with love, offer medicines to him with love, and keep him in good humor. That is the way to make him happy. Anything you do with love will be rewarding.”1 The AFMC volunteers truly believe in this philosophy and serve patients, body, mind and spirit, which helps in the overall healing process. They treat their patients just as they would their dearest kith and kin. This attitude has not gone unnoticed. One grateful patient commented, “When I come to this clinic, I can feel God’s presence.” Another said, “When I come to this clinic, I feel that all of you volunteers are angels sent from heaven to help us.” The patients are truly very grateful for the care that they receive, and eagerly want to give back. Some have joined the clinic as volunteers, some have donated medical supplies and others have brought offerings of their favorite home cooked food.
The volunteers also willingly go the extra mile. They drive patients to nearby hospitals and clinics for referral appointments when no transportation is available, and offer to pay for medications when patients cannot.
Some make great sacrifice of their time and energy. One of the phlebotomists who works evenings and nights as a security supervisor at another local facility lives 3 hours from her primary job (and from AFMC). After work, she sleeps in her car in the hospital parking lot and takes a shower in the hospital, after which she comes to AFMC spreading bright cheerfulness while taking care of patients. Some physicians have come to help on Saturday mornings after working a full shift on Friday night. Such is the spirit of hard work and dedication of the volunteers at AFMC.
Many miracles have also happened to show God’s grace when we serve with pure intentions. One Saturday, the AFMC was short on providers. The night before, the medical director sent prayers for an additional physician and left it in God’s hands. The following day, an additional provider turned up, having checked the schedule and noticed the clinic was short.
On another Friday night, they needed additional interpreters for the many Spanish-speaking patients scheduled the following day. The following morning, a Spanish-speaking patient, who was scheduled for a follow-up, wanted to express her gratitude and help the clinic. She offered to help with Spanish translation for the rest of the clinic and she went on to become a regular volunteer.
Both of these incidents exemplify that when service is done with no expectation of reward, the Universe will conspire to ensure that all the resources needed for carrying out that service are provided.
1Sanathana Sarathi, Jan 1996, p 13-14