Besides general medical care, patients could also get eye exams and new glasses, dental work, prescriptions, dietary advice and mental health counseling.
Each day, when the clinic opened, there was a long line of people waiting for care -- most without health insurance.
“One of the things I’ve been deeply impressed with is just how grateful and humble the people are,” said Lt. Col. John Boston, an internal medicine physician from Wasilla. Boston says the experience has reawakened his passion for healing.
“Sometimes doctors get in a certain rut and routine, and it’s nice to break out of that and get back to the whole reason why we went to medical school,” says Boston. “We wanted to make a difference in people’s lives.”
Boston says he will return home a better doctor, with more awareness of how much medications cost -- especially important when patients must pay for them out of their own pocket. Boston says most of his patients in Alaska have insurance and their drugs are covered, so until now, he never did much research on alternative medications.
Boston was shocked to learn that many of the patients in Hayneville had been prescribed medicines at other clinics but couldn’t afford to buy them, rendering the prescriptions useless. He says the medical team identified cheaper substitutes for the patients and worked with local pharmacies to connect them to programs to help cover some of the costs.
“They give you a hug,” said the Wasilla doctor. “They’re just like, 'Man, it’s a miracle' type of thing.”
The Alaska team will return on Thursday on a Mississippi National Guard cargo jet. Callahan says he won’t miss the 90 degrees-plus temperatures that the roar of cicadas seems to intensify -- but he says he feels lucky to have been a part of the readiness program.
“This is training our Guard members would have needed anyway,” Callahan says, calling it a win-win for both the people of Hayneville and the military. “So the innovative part of this training is that they get training that they need and they’re required to do, while at the same time helping real people in real world situations.”
Contact Rhonda McBride at email@example.com