Courtesy of First Baptist Athens
On a Wednesday night series at First Baptist Church in Athens on community social services some years ago, Tracy Thompson, along with Fred Young, presented a program on Mercy Health Center. Dr. Arv Vasenden is a retired Podiatrist and said that he immediately felt that there might be a need for his services. Before he could volunteer, he had to apply for liability coverage provided by the State and that took about 2 months to receive. Once the paperwork was in order, he began seeing patients 2 afternoons each month. That was four years ago, and Dr. Vasenden still sees patients who are referred to the clinic by other physicians two afternoons a month. In the course of a typical day, he treats between 5 and 8 patients. “The patients I treat are the uninsured, unemployed, disabled, and the ‘working poor’ who are often unable to afford health insurance, or are not eligible for Medicare, or Medicaid,” says Dr. Vasenden. He added that many have major physical disabilities and almost all have problems with transportation. One of the biggest obstacles to getting the care they need is physically getting to the doctor. “It is a long bus ride across town.,” explained Dr. Vasenden.
The majority of treatment that Dr. Vasenden provides focuses on non-surgical palliative and preventive relief of a variety of painful foot conditions such as diabetics at risk with peripheral vascular neuropathy, and prevention of foot ulcers which places many at risk of limb loss. As Dr. Vasenden explains, “We provide minor surgical procedures for chronic painful and infected toenail conditions. The list of treatments can go on and on — as the only Podiatrist seeing patients, and for only 6 hours a month, I don’t even begin to scratch the surface of the need. We hope to add more Podiatrists in the future.”
Recently, Dr. Vasenden reflected on how his work at Mercy Clinic has been a blessing. “To come to the aid of someone in need gives one a feeling that is difficult to express in words. It is energizing and stimulating and gives me a rewarding feeling of really being alive.” The “God” moments for Dr. Vasenden are many. He particularly feels God’s presence when patients enthusiastically express their sincere appreciation for helping them to resolve a painful foot problem that has interfered with their quality of life. “Many of these people are … almost invisible as we drive the streets of Athens. Our patients mirror those who often come for help at Action Ministries & the Daily Bread Program.”
At 79, Dr. Vasenden says he knows that he won’t be able to volunteer forever, but he is renewing his license for another 2 years. If you’d like to learn more about the Mercy Health Clinic and the wonderful work being done there, please contact Mercy’s Assistant Director Grace Johnson via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone the clinic (706.425.9445) to find out how you can help.