A sore tooth, unchecked blood pressure, no medication and a long overdue mammogram were some of the reasons that brought participants to Ascension Wisconsin’s first Medical Mission at Home in Milwaukee. North Division High School was transformed into a medical center on September 14 with help from more than 500 volunteers. Hundreds of healthcare professionals spent their Saturday delivering free care, including more than 600 medical and 147 dental services to 230 individuals.
Medical missions are most commonly thought of when volunteer caregivers travel to other countries to provide medical services. The Ascension Wisconsin Medical Mission at Home does the same thing but for our own community.
The Medical Mission at Home offers spiritually-centered care to improve the health of our neighbors, friends and anyone who may find it difficult to access the care they need.
Access to affordable health care remains a challenge for many. According to Ascension Wisconsin’s 2019 Community Health Needs Assessment, one of the most important health issues in Milwaukee County is access to care. For those living without insurance or high deductibles they can’t afford, that can mean some patients are living without vital health tests, screenings and medication.
Medical evaluations, laboratory testing, X-rays, mammograms, ultrasounds, medications, podiatry and dermatology screenings along with dental services, were among the many services offered at no charge.
Fannie Jones came to the medical mission for a mammogram but when she saw all the additional services offered decided to take advantage of much more, “I just couldn’t believe it when I walked in here and saw everything being offered. It’s just amazing having all of this for free and all in one place. Thank you, Ascension,” she said.
Thirty community organizations also participated in the event, connecting participants to needed resources regarding, insurance enrollment, mental health programs, violence prevention, asthma, substance abuse, support groups and maternal and infant health.
Meeting A Need
Milwaukee is home to a sizable population of underserved residents, many of whom struggle to access healthcare. Helping people get the medical services they need is a big reason Ascension Wisconsin takes its medical mission beyond the four walls of a hospital to places like North Division High School.
“Our Medical Mission at Home provides services to a really important group of people who either don’t have health insurance or who are underinsured here in the greater Milwaukee area. Our dedication to helping those who are most in need is unwavering — this day is about positively impacting lives and improving health in our community,” said Kevin Kluesner, Chief Administrative Officer, Ascension St. Joseph.
Making A Difference
It only takes a moment to make a difference in someone’s life, and Ascension’s mission of compassionate, personalized care is made up of many such moments. Extending that care to those who are most vulnerable is a core value at Ascension Wisconsin, and Ascension’s Medical Mission at Home in Milwaukee was full of many of those moments.
Volunteer, Theresa Gentile, shared the best part of the day for her was helping a patient who had been previously diagnosed as a Type 2 Diabetic but had stopped taking his medication. “We were able to get his blood sugar tested, get a prescription filled and had him talk with a diabetic educator so he knew how to improve his health going forward,” she said.
Pharmacy volunteer, Steve Shuda, said what made his day meaningful was when he helped a patient get a needed blood glucose test kit at no charge and then enrolled her in a program where the supplies will cost $6 per month going forward, rather than the $200 she had been paying.
Mind, Body and Spirit
One patient who came to the medical mission on his birthday with health concerns weighing on him got the best birthday present when tests confirmed he was healthy. “Today is my birthday and I got good news, and good health to keep me living,” he said with a big smile on his face. Another participant was so touched by the care she received, she grabbed every volunteer’s hand on her way out thanking them for being there and treating her with dignity and kindness.
In addition to medical and dental services, trained chaplains were on site offering spiritual services, including foot washing for 75 participants. “The opportunity to connect and talk about feelings in a safe environment was truly appreciated by many and demonstrates our commitment to providing holistic care that includes the spiritual as well as the physical,” said Tim Waldoch, Chief Mission Integration Officer, Ascension Wisconsin.
Ascension has made a commitment to expand the Medical Mission at Home nationally — a proactive demonstration of its mission in action in the community and commitment to Healthcare That Leaves No One Behind.