This morning a great man passed away. He had a major impact in my life and I hope you will indulge me a few minutes to talk about him. His name is Dr. Jack McConnell.
I heard about Jack in 1999 while watching the Chris Mathews show, Hardball. Chris was interviewing John Kasich, who is currently the Governor of Ohio. Kasich had written a book called Courage is Contagious. The book is about 14 people who had done extraordinary things in their community. One of those people was Dr. Jack McConnell, who put together a program called Volunteers in Medicine in Hilton Head. This program served the working uninsured using retired doctors, nurses, dentist and non-medical individuals. It was financed without any government money.
I was so impressed with Jack that I called him and he encouraged me to see his clinic in Hilton Head. I flew out to Hilton Head and saw firsthand this amazing clinic. It was truly amazing and I made a commitment to myself to try and create a clinic in SF. It took me about 11 years and working with Janet Reilly, we created Clinic by the Bay which has now been in existence for over 8 years.
Jack was one of the most amazing people I have ever met in my life. He used to say when talking to him “What have you done for someone today?” Having been taught this by his father, he truly lived his life always trying to help people. Volunteers in Medicine now has about 90 clinics around the country. He has been my inspiration. When I was down, I would find a reason to call Jack and ask him how he was doing, he always had the same response… “better since you called.”
He refused to call the patients at the clinic “patients”. They were always friends and neighbors.
The credo Jack wrote for Volunteers in Medicine was:
May we have eyes to see those rendered invisible and excluded,
Open arms and hearts to reach out and include them,
Healing hands to touch their lives with love,
And in the process, heal ourselves.
We all should try to learn from Jack’s example.
Read more about Jack’s life here: Link
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