For the past 14 years, Dr. James Mowery has been treating patients at Family Health Partnership Clinic on his days off work.
The Woodstock clinic, staffed by volunteer doctors and nurses, provides medical care to McHenry County’s uninsured and underinsured based on a sliding-fee scale, although no patients are turned away.
Mowery, 66, of McHenry, said he’s just doing his part to help the community.
“The need is obvious. We have 15 percent of the population that supposedly has no insurance. That basically means that 15 percent of people, because of the cost, really have no access to care except through emergency rooms, which are prohibitively expensive,” he said. “My feeling is that everybody has a right to access some type of medical care, and I have no problem being the person who treats those patients. Over time, it’s become an obligation.”
For the past several years, Mowery has been coming in to the clinic one day a week; before that, he volunteered one day a month.
“I’ve been doing it long enough that it has become a passion,” he said. “It’s just part of who I am and what I do.”
Mowery also is a doctor of internal medicine at Centegra Physician Care in McHenry.
As the clinic’s medical director, he often is consulted on difficult cases. And his attitude toward patients, regardless of their ability to pay, helps set the standard at the clinic.
“As far as I’m concerned, the patients that I see at [Family Health Partnership Clinic] are no different than the patients I see at my regular practice,” he said. “You’ve got to treat [each patient] as an individual. I have no more problems dealing with a drug addict with hepatitis C who continues to drink than I do with a CEO of a company.”
Mowery said that the best way to keep his clinic patients out of the emergency room is regular visits and preventive care.
“One of the difficulties with patients who don’t have insurance is they find it difficult to come in for preventive medicine,” he said. “They’re used to just going and seeing someone in an emergency room when they get sick. A lot of clinics aren’t geared toward ongoing care.”
One way he tries to keep patients coming back is by limiting the amount of time they spend in the waiting room to 15 to 20 minutes. Long waits are one of his pet peeves.
Mowery has been practicing medicine in McHenry County for 37 years and was one of the county’s pioneers in treating the uninsured, said Suzanne Hoban, executive director of Family Health Partnership Clinic.
Before joining forces with Hoban in the late 1990s, Mowery had operated his own free clinic in McHenry, but the clinic never really got off the ground because of the limited hours it was able to offer, Mowery said.
Hoban said Mowery has been “extremely generous with his time” over the years and praised his work at the clinic.
“His patients love him,” she said.
Mowery’s employer, Centegra Physician Care, also recognizes the value of his volunteer work.
“Dr. Mowery’s dedication to the community sets a great example for all of our providers at Centegra Physician Care,” said Dr. Pasquale Bernardi, vice president of Centegra Physician Care. “Providing access to primary care through a great organization like the Family Health Partnership Clinic pays dividends down the road, not just to the patients that they serve, but to the whole community. That important access addresses health care needs earlier and helps create a healthier population. We are very proud of the many years of service that Dr. Mowery has provided to greater McHenry County, both in our offices and through his volunteer work.”
Mowery’s wife, Char, always has been supportive of his volunteer work and does her own volunteer work at First United Methodist Church in McHenry. The church “is where a lot of my passion comes from,” he said.
Passion is key to volunteering at Family Health Partnership Clinic. The doctors and nurses who volunteer at the clinic must have a passion for the work they do or they won’t last long, Mowery said.
The clinic logged more than 8,880 patient visits in fiscal 2011-12, the most since it opened. While the clinic always could use more volunteer nurses and doctors, it also benefits from the help of specialists, such as surgeons, who may assist the clinic on one or two cases a year.
Those without the passion or skills to volunteer at the clinic can support its mission through donations. Information on donating is available online at www.hpclinic.org.
As Mowery approaches retirement, he is looking forward to spending more hours at the clinic and finding other ways to give back to the community.
“I do this because I’m supposed to do this,” he said.
The Dr. Mowery lowdown
Who is he? Medical director for Family Health Partnership, physician at Centegra Physician Care
Family: Wife Char; daughter Kimberly, 36; son Drew, 34
Favorite movie: “The Sting,” staring Paul Newman and Robert Redford
Favorite book: “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien