By Clare Bratten
If you are from middle Tennessee and you’ve ever had to put off a doctor’s appointment, a screening procedure or a visit to the dentist because you don’t have medical insurance or your medical insurance won’t cover it, you might want to head down to the Municipal Auditorium on September 7th from 8 am to 1 pm. Chances are, you’ll have to wait in line. But the facility will be the site of another Medical Mission organized and funded by Ascension Saint Thomas. The mission is a gathering of medical, dental, vision and other experts and professional who will provide free treatment and exams for one day. The medical mission is expected to serve 800-1,000 patients.
“This will be our fourth medical mission in Nashville this year and now we have over 500 volunteers,” said Nancy Anness who is chief Advocacy Officer for Ascension Saint Thomas. Anness said among the medical services offered by the Medical Mission are exams, prescriptions, dental care, vision screening with glasses provided at the site, medical imaging where needed, psychological and spiritual counseling services.
This “Medical Mission” grew out of the deep faith and commitment of a nurse practitioner Nancy Anness who works at Saint Thomas. Over the years, she had gone overseas to serve with medical missions for people in other countries who didn’t have health care. But she realized that the same problem existed in Davidson County and other parts of Tennessee. So she made a proposal to a yearly meeting held by Saint Thomas, where the faith based medical community discussed what their mission should be.
“I thought we really should do a medical mission right here in our own backyard. We started the Medical Mission in December 2008 just locally, in the Nashville area. The reason we started doing them is because there are so many uninsured and underinsured in Davidson County and middle Tennessee, in Tennessee, and really, across the nation. We were the first Ascension ministry to do those,” Anness said. Ascension Saint Thomas sponsors four medical missions a year to serve the uninsured and underinsured around Tennessee.
The medical personnel are mostly a part of the Ascension medical professional, said Anness, but the medical mission does draw from volunteers from nursing schools, including some of the faculty and students. They will have at least 20 physicians and nurse practitioners, and approximately 20 exam rooms.
“We’ll have a full laboratory there to do any of the lab work requested by the physicians there. We do everything from complete blood counts to metabolic panels to lipid screenings, hemoglobin A1Cs, I believe we can do thyroid testing there that day. We will have free medications there that day that can be provided as the physicians write the prescriptions.”
“We also will have digital medical imaging so we can do ultrasounds, echocardiograms, extremity exams and get real time results because a radiologist will read them remotely. We’ll have free screening mammography for women over age 40.”
“We work with the University of Tennessee dental school as well as the Meharry dental school. I just heard we will have over 50 dental students and dental residents there, along with 15-20 dentists and oral surgeons. Those will be coordinated and run by Dr. Phillip Kemp, the founder of Hope Smiles. They will be doing cleanings, fillings and extractions and he also will have oral surgeons there who will be able to do more complicated procedures.”
There will be vision screenings for near sightedness and far sightedness. “We offer and make glasses right there – we have the lenses that are ground before we bring them in. We have all different sizes with standardized frames and we can customize them that day. We’ll have opticians and an ophthalmologist there.”
Over 30 social service agencies will help people with anything from housing to free exercise programs. Certified insurance enrollers will help participants who are interested in signing up for Affordable Care Act marketplace opportunities for which they qualify.
Ascension Saint Thomas organizes and underwrites the event here and in other locations around the state. They also will suggest and refer patients who need follow up care to other clinics that offer low cost care to the underinsured and uninsured closer to where they live