Catholic-run mobile medical and dental clinic fills needs in rural Missouri — By: Catholic News Agency

A Rural Parish Clinic mobile unit makes the rounds, featured on “EWTN News in Depth” March 1, 2024. / Credit: “EWTN News in Depth”

CNA Staff, Mar 5, 2024 / 07:45 am (CNA).

The St. Louis Archdiocese is the largest in Missouri by population, and though much of its territory is urban or suburban, large swaths of its territory are rural, where medical and dental facilities can be few and far between

Stepping up to help are Catholic volunteers staffing mobile medical and dental units, housed in large trucks and run by the archdiocese, which have helped to fill the gaps for hundreds of patients, workers told “EWTN News in Depth.”

The Rural Parish Clinic, an initiative of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, began in 2019 and rotates through several rural destinations twice a week, offering doctors, nurses, exam rooms, and prescriptions. Private donations and grant money keep the mobile medical clinic and an accompanying mobile dental clinic running. 

Vicki Boehmer, a registered nurse, told EWTN News’ Mark Irons that she finds the work of using her medical skills to help her neighbors in need very rewarding. 

“I feel that every time I come to the clinic, I leave receiving more than what I have given,” Boehmer said. 

The trucks drive from place to place, taking walk-in patients aged 19-64 who have no health insurance and have a household income at or below 200% of the federal poverty level — about $62,000 for a family of four. The further you get from the St. Louis metro area, a greater percentage of people are uninsured, with some outlying counties as high as 14%.  

According to the archdiocese, the clinic has collaborated with several local Catholic health systems to provide medical services and other assistance, including SSM Health, Mercy, and Ascension Health. 

Dr. Tom Johans, a retired anesthesiologist and physician volunteer, told “EWTN News in Depth” that the Catholic faith is very important to the volunteers’ work. The team starts each day with Mass and prayer before going out to serve patients. 

“This is a very spiritual outlet. You’re doing something very good for people. God is good and God can only do good. So if I’m doing good, I’m doing God’s work,” he said.

Dr. Mary Hastings, another physician volunteer, said she wants to see the Church invest more into health care as a way of putting faith into action and meeting ordinary people in the places where they are hurting. 

“I think it’s time to start doing more in health care, because what I find is that this white coat gives me access to a lot. It gives me access to things about domestic violence, food insecurity, mental health needs, all sorts of things,” Hastings said. 

While meeting the physical and medical needs of people, the volunteers say they hope to emulate Jesus to the people they serve. 

“[W]e are acting the way Jesus would want us to act, and we’re doing evangelization by our behavior with our patients,” Boehmer, the nurse volunteer, said. 

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