Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Doctors Step Up to Offer Health Care to Uninsured; Physician Who Founded We Care Jacksonville Marvels at Rapid Growth

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Doctors Step Up to Offer Health Care to Uninsured; Physician Who Founded We Care Jacksonville Marvels at Rapid Growth

Article excerpt

Byline: Beth Reese Cravey

In the beginning, it was a small thing.

One doctor rounding up a handful of other Duval County Medical Society doctors to donate health care to the needy.

Almost 20 years later, the handful has grown to a network of 500 specialty physicians taking referrals; 200 physicians, nurses and volunteers serving at a Volunteers in Medicine-staffed clinic; 100 physicians and nurses serving at 12 other primary care clinics; 200 assorted pharmacists and physician assistants; and lay people who provide administrative support. Also, all the Jacksonville hospitals donate services.

George Trotter, the Jacksonville oncologist/hematologist who in 1993 founded what is now called We Care Jacksonville, marvels at how the community stepped up take care if its own.

"It just grew so big," he said. "Everybody is on board, everyone in the spectrum of health care delivery. It has mushroomed."

Over the years, rounding up more and more doctors was never difficult.

"We always had plenty. Doctors are generous souls," Trotter said. "Doctors have always donated time; they don't ever get credit for it."

On Thursday, the nonprofit will hold the 2012 Caring Awards, an annual fundraiser that recognizes the people and entities who collectively make We Care work. This year's honorees are Trotter and the clinics at the front line of the network's medical care.

Trotter doesn't think himself worthy of the spotlight and got teary at the thought.

"When I see what We Care has become, I feel insignificant," he said. "It is so much bigger than me. Alone, you can do very little; together, you can do great things."

But he was the impetus, said gastroenterologist Todd Sack, president of We Care's board of directors.

"George had a great idea," he said, "and he got it done."

We Care provides primary and specialty care to Jacksonville's uninsured, homeless and medically under-served. Eligible patients are referred to a network of primary care clinics where they receive free basic care. Clinics refer patients to specialists for diagnostic tests, consultations, surgery, cancer evaluation and treatment and rehabilitation.

Also, the nonprofit works with area social service agencies who can help patients who need other kinds of assistance, such as transportation, housing and food.

Brenda Young became a We Care patient in 2010. She had been laid off from her longtime dry cleaning job in Daytona Beach and was living with a daughter in Jacksonville. She had no insurance and was not old enough for Medicare, but needed medication and treatment for diabetes, hypertension and anemia.

"I was looking for health care that we qualified for because I was out of work," she told the Times-Union. "My daughter found out about We Care, and it's been wonderful. …

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