After four decades of practicing radiology with Radiology Associates at St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center, Dr. Turner Harris retired in 1996. Instead of playing golf, he began recruiting retired physicians to donate their time to care for people in medically underserved areas of Little Rock.
“I noticed physicians who were in practice before me were retired and playing a lot of golf. I told my friends we still had medical knowledge and expertise and now was the perfect time to give something back to the community,” Dr. Harris said.
Harris organized the first meeting of the St. Vincent Emeritus Physicians Club, bringing about 40 retired physicians to a luncheon where Harris again shared his idea. By the end of the month, five doctors who were sincerely interested had committed to something, but they did not know what exactly.
After several months of discussion, Catholic Health Initiatives, a national nonprofit medical health care organization of which St. Vincent is a member, agreed to cover the cost of malpractice insurance for retired physicians who volunteered their services. While Dr. Harris was recruiting physicians, a St. Vincent-led community coalition opened two community clinics. It was a logical step for volunteer physicians to treat people who needed medical care at these community health clinics. Because of Dr. Harris’ efforts, physicians maintain their skills and community residents can have their medical needs met. Now nine physicians volunteer a portion of the day at four community clinics located in community centers or churches.
Altogether, physicians at the four clinics treat almost 5,000 people a year. Since June 1998, prescriptions valued at $221,402 dollars have been given to more than 2,000 people who could not afford their own prescriptions.
“We’re taking care of a segment of our population the way the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, who founded St. Vincent, did in the 1880s,” Harris said.