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Physician Volunteers at Clinic

Rodney serves clinic as medical director.

From working at Loudoun Hospital Center's emergency room to volunteering at the Loudoun Community Free Clinic, Leesburg resident Kurt Rodney faces different paces.

"The challenge of emergency medicine is focusing in on the problem and making a quick decision in serious situations. It's also putting together a puzzle or solving a mystery, trying to solve a problem," said Rodney, emergency room doctor for 20 years, the last eight years at Loudoun Hospital Center in Lansdowne.

To slow that pace down, Rodney volunteers at the Leesburg clinic, where he can focus on individual patients. "Here I have much more time to get a more complete picture of the individual. And there's the continuing care you get here that you usually don't get in the emergency room," he said.

Rodney's emergency room experience, along with the fact that he has volunteered at the clinic since 2001 a year after the clinic opened, caught the attention of the clinic's board of directors. In February 2003, the board named him volunteer medical director to manage medical issues, develop and implement policies and procedures for the clinic and recruit physician volunteers.

"He was easily identified," said Lyle Werner, executive director of the clinic. "He's very skilled clinically. ... He's easy to approach, easy to work with and open to new ideas. Part of developing a clinic is [that] interest in new approaches."

THE LOUDOUN COMMUNITY Free Clinic opened in 2000 as a portable clinic in a donated room from the Department of Health to serve medically uninsured Loudoun residents with limited incomes. Volunteers worked one night a week to provide the residents with physical examinations and non-emergency, acute and chronic care. Through the clinic, the residents gained access to medical specialists, radiologists and laboratory testing and to prescriptions and medications at a free or reduced cost.

In early 2003, the Loudoun Hospital Center provided the clinic with 2,800 square feet of donated space in the Cornwall facility that the hospital recently reopened to serve western Loudoun. By March, the clinic was able to expand services to two nights a week and furnish four examination rooms and one laboratory with donated furniture and supplies. Volunteers were able to see more patients, increasing services for about 100 patients a month in 2002, or 1,328 patients for the year, to about 150 patients a month in March and April 2003. "I enjoy being able to use my skills in a setting where it's all about practicing medicine," Rodney said. "I'd always done some sort of volunteering and felt that it was rewarding for me to help those people who couldn't get to see a doctor because of financial reasons. ... In these days, the health care and reimbursement system is in such chaos, some people fall through the cracks."

ANOTHER REASON Rodney volunteers is to be around other volunteers. More than 120 volunteers staff the clinic, including area physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists and others, along with two paid staff members. "I find it very rewarding to be able to work as a team of volunteers because they're here because they want to be here. It's not for any financial award," he said. "It's a different environment with volunteers who are enjoying providing services for people in need. I get a rewarding sense out of that."

Rodney's interest in practicing medicine comes from liking to work with people and the scientific side of medicine. "The way to put these together is to become a doctor," he said.

Rodney, who was raised in Maryland, earned a medical degree in 1979 from the Hahnemann Medical College of Philadelphia. After finishing three years of residency, he worked at the Arlington Hospital for eight years and at two other hospitals for four years before he started working at the Loudoun Hospital Center in 1995. He partnered with the Commonwealth Emergency Physicians, which contracted with the hospital two years ago to provide physician services and run the medical practice in the emergency rooms.

"He's a very personable doctor, which I think is important," said Dena Willett, clinic coordinator. "He's able to relate to our patients well. ... He's genuinely a kind and caring person, very friendly and easy to get along with ... as well as being professional at the same time."

WERNER IS "thrilled" Rodney is at the clinic. "He's a very likable person ... and appeals to everyone," she said, agreeing with Willett.

"We're on the brink of a new frontier. With him, we'll be able to cross it. We have nowhere to go but up and grow," Werner said, adding that the clinic is the first and only one in Loudoun, though Virginia has 52 clinics statewide. "It's amazing we've done this in such a short period of time. In order to make that happen, you have to have a medical director who's a team player."

Werner hopes to see the clinic expand hours and services for patients, such as including sports physical examinations for children and additional acute care services beyond diabetes and hypertension care. Currently, the clinic is open from 6-9 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

"There's a huge need in the community. People we see have no alternative, no place to go," Werner said. "This is truly neighbors helping neighbors. This is a community helping itself in the best sense."

The clinic serves Loudoun residents ages 18-64 years and is a project of The Catoctin Foundation, a non-profit organization that aims to increase access to health services for the medically under-served. An open house for the clinic is scheduled on June 17. National Volunteers Week was from April 28 to May 2.