Great people and a great facility

Published 9:11 pm Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Western Tidewater Free Clinic is one of the things that makes Suffolk truly a great place to live. Even those of us who are blessed to have medical insurance — or at least the ability to pay for our occasional medical care — receive an incredible benefit from the fact that the organization provides medical care for many hundreds of people who otherwise wouldn’t receive it.

For the clinic’s patients, the help they receive there can mean — quite literally — the difference between life and death. More often than that, though, it means an improvement in quality of life that is somewhat harder to measure. The everyday improvements realized by receiving care for health problems before they can turn into life-and-death medical decisions waiting to be made in an emergency room are literally priceless. Even the minor improvements that can come as a result of receiving preventive care and advice are potentially life-changing in the long run.

The folks who volunteer at the clinic do wonderful and fulfilling work that makes a real difference in their community. Some of them actually enjoy the work so much that they look for ways to do more of it.

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Dr. Ernest Knight, a Franklin dentist, is one of those people. Having volunteered at the facility since its dental suite opened in 2010, he took on a part-time, grant-funded position at WTFC in January. Administrators sought to expand their dental services, having realized that every patient who visits the clinic for medical help also needs dental work, some of it extensive and critical enough to have become a health issue in its own right.

Since Knight accepted the part-time job in January, the clinic’s dental patient load has nearly doubled, and visits to the dental clinic have nearly tripled. Each of those visits represents a patient whose life has been improved in some tangible way by the generosity of the clinic’s volunteers and donors and by the attitude of a dentist who liked helping out so much that he chose to increase his commitment to the clinic.

Suffolk is truly blessed to have such people working at such a facility.