TUPELO — When the Good Samaritan Free Clinic opened its doors at 420 Magazine Street in November 1992, it began as a well-researched experiment of sorts. In the summer of 1990, members of First Presbyterian Church began a special mission project to explore the feasibility of a free clinic in Lee County. The focus of the effort was concern for the “working uninsured” — those who are employed and earnestly trying to help themselves and their families, but are living at or below the poverty level and lack health insurance coverage.
Spearheading the effort was Dr. Antone Tannehill, a Tupelo physician who practiced internal medicine and cared deeply about the development of such a facility.
Fast forward to November 2006 and the clinic has proven itself as a major force in improving the health and well-being of working uninsured Lee countians in need of health services. Since its inception, the clinic has served more than 7,165 Lee countians in nearly 41,000 visits.
Annually, more than 400 volunteers including physicians, dentists, nurses, medical technologists, pharmacy technicians and lay staff donate their services. On the anniversary of its opening day, the clinic’s board of directors recently announced that the facility would be renamed the Antone Tannehill Good Samaritan Free Clinic in memory of the physician who passed away earlier this year.
“Few men in their lives accomplish what Dr. Tannehill has done for this community,” said board chairman Dr. Michael O’Dell. “It is a modest recognition of his enormous contributions that we recognize by changing the name of the clinic in his honor.”
Outgoing board chairman James Threadgill, a BancorpSouth executive, agreed. “I cannot think of a more fitting honor than to name this clinic for the person so instrumental in its establishment. I know I speak for our hundreds of volunteers in saying how satisfying it is to work here at the clinic with so many deserving people.”
To be eligible for clinic services, patients must live in Lee County; be employed or temporarily unemployed, but actively seeking employment; have no health insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security or VA benefits; and meet clinic income guidelines.
Services provided include diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic illnesses in adults, diagnosis and treatment of acute dental pain in adults, laboratory testing, pharmaceutical services, patient education, childhood immunizations from birth to 18 years of age and gynecological care.
The clinic administrator, business manager, administrative assistant and pharmacy technician are the only paid staff positions. Licensed doctors, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, medical technologists and other healthcare professionals volunteer without pay.
Dr. Barney Guyton, who serves as the clinic’s medical director, said that naming the facility in honor of Tannehill was a fitting tribute to a person whose diligence enabled the clinic to serve the working uninsured in the community.
“Dr. Tannehill was the consummate family doctor, who literally devoted his entire life to making sure people of all socioeconomic status have adequate medical care,” Guyton said. “One of his greatest thrills in the final years of his practice was to see this come to fruition.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Karen Kahler Holliday at email@example.com.