Providing health care to those in need BY CARALEE ADAMS
PATIENCE MBASSA, WHO HAS high blood pressure and
diabetes, comes to the MobileMed clinic in Silver Spring every
three months for a checkup. The 65-year-old, who works as
a secretary and doesn’t have health insurance, relies on the
clinic for free care, medications and supplies to track her
blood glucose level.
Mbassa says the medical staff takes time to ask questions
and get to know her. When she was dismissive of a lump
she’d had in her breast for years, they urged her to take
action. Four years ago she had the lump surgically removed
and the news was good: no cancer.
“[The people at MobileMed] showed me that they loved
me and that they were concerned about me,” says Mbassa, a
Silver Spring resident who now gets regular mammograms.
MobileMed, which was founded 50 years ago, is based
in Bethesda. Volunteer physicians at the nonpro;t’s eight
clinics—three ;xed sites, three mobile van sites and two
homeless shelters, all in Montgomery County—see adult
patients for a range of services, from sick visits to physical
exams to behavioral health counseling.
Anyone with a demonstrated ;nancial need is treated
regardless of their ability to pay, immigration status or health
insurance situation. English is not the ;rst language for about
half the patients, according to Barry Barth, MobileMed’s
director of development and outreach. Many of the 45 full-
and part-time staff members are multilingual, and translators
are used sometimes.
The clinics rely on doctors such as Jennifer Pippins of
Takoma Park, an internal medicine physician who works for
the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and volunteers twice
a month. “It’s not infrequent that I’m the ;rst physician to
lay hands on and take care of a patient who hasn’t had any
medical care for a good portion of their adult lives,” she says.
“Other patients have moved around a lot…there is often a
sense of relief to have someone have a fresh look and start
from the beginning.”
In the ;scal year which ended on June 30, 2017,
MobileMed’s 51 clinical volunteers provided care to about
4,400 patients (the vast majority were Montgomery County
residents) through 16,000 medical visits—about a 10
percent increase in encounters over the previous year.
“Being here grounds me and reminds me that while
we’ve made many advances as a medical community, those
advances are not accessible to everyone,” Pippins says. “As
health care providers and involved citizens, part of our job has
to be to bridge that gap.”
Dr. Jennifer Pippins
(left), a volunteer with
with Patience Mbassa
at a MobileMed clinic
in Silver Spring.