A Note from the Front Lines of Health Care Amid a Pandemic


By Lauren Cosgrove, MD

As health care providers, we know that sometimes a small thing makes everything better: the touch of a hand, a smile, a warm blanket, an unexpected card or note from an old friend. Coronavirus has brought the entire world to its knees and has made it challenging to do even these small things. We are busy with telemedicine, but no “touch” occurs. We can see smiles via Zoom, but we miss that hug. Personal lives, professional lives, and global economies are reeling. Although Maryland hopes for a flattening of the curve, the number of infected keeps climbing and the number dying keeps rising. Ethnic inequality persists, even with this virus. Social distancing has turned into “stay at home and do not travel” orders. Unemployment has jumped dramatically, and more and more people are losing their health insurance at the exact time they need it most. Every flaw of our health care system and of our society is being exposed. My heart aches for the normalcy of just 6 weeks ago.

This week saw some examples of the best of humankind. Our cleaning company sewed colorful cloth masks for our staff. Our Board of Directors brightened staff days with lunches. Doctors who must stay at home sent E-mails of support. We interviewed one new volunteer physician, and we hired a part time nurse to assist our overwhelmed single RN.

I am grateful to our providers who continue to come to Mercy, I am grateful to our employees, who arrive each day and confront their own fears. The human contact and support we each need and crave is present at Mercy, albeit partially concealed behind our facemasks.

Reflections as our 20th Anniversary Approaches

Mercy Health Clinic began serving the uninsured poor of Montgomery County on October 3, 2000.  On that first day, the clinic saw its first four patients, served by three volunteers and one paid employee.  Starting that October, the Clinic, operating in a county owned facility, served the Germantown community two days a week (Tuesday and Thursday) and began to build its patient base and its volunteer base.  That first month the clinic was in operation for nine days and saw 101 patients.  Volunteers worked two three-hour shifts each day from 2 pm to 8 pm.  According to data collected for that first month, these patients were served by eight doctors, ten nurses, and 28 other support staff (technicians, registrars, translators, etc.), all volunteers.  In the nineteen years since those opening days, the clinic has seen thousands of patients served by hundreds of medical providers and support staff.  Today, Mercy Health Clinic continues serving 2,000 patients a year through over 7,200 visits, with a small medical staff supported by 45 volunteer physicians and more than 100  volunteers including nurses, medical assistants, scribes, and translators, and those who provide much needed administrative assistance to patients.

Your support continues to make it possible for so many patients to receive the health care they need to take care of themselves and their families! We are grateful for you!