Eleven years ago, Katie Wedemeyer walked into Good Shepherd Ministries' free clinic unsure of what she would find.
Wedemeyer, 65, said she lives in an apartment building adjacent to the clinic and needed help with a sore tooth.
The Oklahoma City woman said she was uninsured and had no money to go to a doctor or dentist. She said she received the necessary treatment free of charge from kindhearted doctors and dentists at the clinic and found out the potentially lifesaving information that she suffered from hypertension.
“It helps me out a lot, and they treat me right,” she said of the clinic, housed at the First Baptist Church of Oklahoma City complex, 1201 N Robinson.
Ellen Ingram, the clinic's director of development, said a new multimillion grant will enable the clinic to help others such as Wedemeyer who depend on the free medical and dental services provided there.
Ingram said the clinic recently received a $7.7 million grant from the Butterfield Memorial Foundation. She said the grant will allow the clinic to expand its facilities, increase its hours from six to full-time, provide additional medical and dental services and hire its first staff members.
Ingram said she expects medical appointments at the clinic to triple in the next three years — from about 2,000 to 6,000 patients. She said dental visits are expected to increase from about 175 a year to 2,500.
Meeting a need
No one could be happier about the coming expansion than Dr. Fred Loper, who as a University of Oklahoma medical student started working with the clinic when it was launched in 1977.
Loper, 60, said Good Shepherd Ministries was a church mission of First Baptist in Oklahoma City. He said he and the ministry's leader found out that a homeless man had his wound stitched by a bartender in a local tavern because he had no where else to go for treatment.
Loper, now a member of Frontline Church, said it was then that the clinic was started specifically to serve low-income, uninsured men, women and children.
He said he was a longtime clinic volunteer and now, through the grant, has become the clinic's first paid medical director. Loper said service hours for the appointment-only clinic are expected to expand in March.
On a recent Tuesday, Loper gathered the volunteer doctors, nurses and medical students (most from the nearby University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center) for a heartfelt prayer.
He said the clinic was born out of the Christian faith principles of loving and serving others.
He said besides additional office space and teaching areas, he would like to see a small chapel constructed as part of the clinic expansion effort.
“Our goal is to minister to the whole person,” she said.
“People come with multiple health issues, and our goal is to bring a holistic approach to their needs.”
Rita Nonnen, of Del City, one of Loper's longtime clinic patients, said she can attest to the caring attention he and clinic volunteers have lavished on her over the years.
“Dr. Loper is really a good doctor,” Nonnen, 32, said, smiling.
“I've never seen anyone who cares for his patients as much.”
Hearing the woman's words, Ingram nodded her head in affirmation.
“It says that we're doing what we indeed to do — and that is to treat people as people and not numbers.”