Why Healthcare and the Gospel Matter: An Interview with David Dageforde

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At an age when many of his peers began to consider retirement and slowing down, Dr. David Dageforde started one of the most ambitious efforts of his life – a brand new healthcare clinic in a medically under-served neighborhood. Here, Shawnee Christian Healthcare Center Founder Dr. David Dageforde shares why he started the Clinic, why Christ matters in healthcare and why young adults are urgently needed.

What is important about the work that Shawnee Christian Healthcare Center does? Why the Shawnee neighborhood?
SCHC exists to accomplish two missions. First, we deliver integrated primary health care for all ages using a Christian holistic approach of treating each patient physically, spiritually, psychologically and socially.

Second, we integrate Christian neighborhood transformation concepts where the primary goal is to utilize people and business resources within the neighborhood to improve the neighborhood. The Shawnee neighborhood was chosen because the Shawnee-Chickasaw neighborhoods are listed both in the MUA (Medically Underserved Areas) in government ratings, mainly because there were no primary care facilities within the Shawnee neighborhood. The government also gave a very low rating for HPSA (Healthcare Professional Shortage Area) designation, meaning that even with health care facilities located in adjacent neighborhoods, there is still a huge shortage of available primary care for this neighborhood.

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You are at a stage in life when many doctors choose to retire. Instead, you started a brand new nonprofit. Why not just play golf?
In 2000, at the age of 52, I quit full-time Interventional cardiology, working only part-time office work periodically, so that I could both direct the Global Missions Health Conference I initiated in 1996 and lead frequent overseas short-term medical trips. In 2006, after 10 years of directing the Health Conference and 15 years of leading short-term mission trips, I wanted to use the invaluable lessons taught to me by Dr. Dan Fountain and by Stan Rowland.

Both of these men spent their adult lives overseas as missionaries and after retirement both men developed similar programs for urban America. I studied with both of them to learn the essentials of their programs – which contained both a healthcare program and a community transformation program. From a concept on paper in 2006, to the opening of the clinic in 2011, I was blessed to meet amazing individuals who were able to assist and give valuable suggestions to make the clinic viable.

Once a year to play golf for 30 years was fine with me, but that time is over…

Why is this cause valuable to you personally?
Matthew 25 directs all Christians whom we are to take care of in this world. Shawnee Christian Healthcare Center, with both its clinic and Neighborhood Transformation programs, is designed to help those very individuals mentioned in Matthew 25.

Love Thy Neighborhood - Dr
Dr. David Dageforde (left) speaking with SCHC staff.

What are common medical situations for someone that comes to you in need?
Common situations could include: blood pressure not controlled (Hypertension); blood sugar not controlled (Diabetes); child with asthma or skin rash or cold; patients with obesity and/or sleep apnea. Really, any reason that an individual of any age – from six months old to sixty years old to someone in their 90’s – would seek care from a primary care practice.

How far would that need to travel to get medical care? Could they financially afford the care they were seeking?
Before SCHC, the travel by public transportation was at least two buses and one transfer or maybe even two transfers; now many of the patients are within walking distance or live a very short drive away from the Center.

SCHC follows the Federal guidelines for sliding fee scale for those patients who are uninsured. Patients at the lowest level of income are charged $25; however, even those patients who are in financial crisis can receive care without charge if they truly cannot afford to pay for this care.

If someone were to serve at SCHC with Love Thy Neighborhood, what could they expect? What would they be doing? What would they experience?
SCHC has two components, both equally important – the Healthcare Clinic and the Neighborhood Transformation work.

If the individual is more interested in a medical experience, they would be able to: both do volunteer work in the office, pray with patients who requested prayer, help with filing, call patients to remind them about upcoming appointments and similar activities. This is a real way to help the small clinic staff keep up-to-date on record keeping and staff daily work. At the same time, we do not have a full-time ministry type person on site and since we are a Christian healthcare center, there are patients who want at the least, someone to pray with them, or even someone just to listen to their needs and/or concerns.

If the individual is more interested in Neighborhood Transformation experience, there are a multitude of activities and programs we offer that we also need help with – including programs for childhood obesity, smoking cessation or our Youth Advocate program. We’re involved in the neighborhood in various other ways with our NT program as well.

We are located right in the center of an urban underserved neighborhood, so both medically and socially, anyone volunteering with Love Thy Neighborhood will experience the social, psychological, spiritual and medical concerns present in such a neighborhood.

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Learn more about this healthcare ministry internship and apply today!

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