September 2021 President’s Message

September 2021 President’s Message

Project Access is a shining light in our community

by Stephen J. Grindel, DO —

Many young physicians may not be aware of Project Access or its outstanding contributions to serving the uninsured people of our community. The development of Project Access was led by Dr. Paul Uhlig and Dr. Joe Meek of the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita. Both of these outstanding leaders noted the need to serve low-income individuals without health insurance who did not qualify for government programs.

Drs. Uhlig and Meek visited the first Project Access program in Asheville, N.C., where the combined resources of physicians, pharmacists, hospitals and many other entities serve the uninsured. They received an initial grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for planning the program and, subsequently, an extended three-year grant for implementation. The year was 1999, and the number of residents living in Sedgwick County without insurance was 40,000.

Dr. Uhlig was able to convince 239 Medical Society physicians to join him in 1999, and the number climbed to 537 volunteer physicians in 2000. The strength of Project Access was not only the physician involvement but in partnering with hospitals, pharmacies, dentists, physical therapists and hospice providers to obtain comprehensive care for patients.

The funding of Project Access involves multiple entities. Supporting institutions include the City of Wichita, Sedgwick County and the United Way of the Plains. One-fourth of the budget relies on financial donations. Project Access’ recent fundraiser at the home of Jill Docking raised about $24,000. Currently, MSSC Executive Director Philip Brownlee and Project Access Executive Director Shelley Duncan are seeking support from the state of Kansas.

The numbers are staggering regarding the care provided. Almost 15,000 patients have been served, with $55 million in physician contributions over the past 20 years. Hospital contributions amount to $182 million, with another $6 million in donated medications. It is amazing what can be done when our Medical Society collaborates with other groups to serve uninsured patients.

The MSSC wishes to thank all of the contributing parties. None of this success could have been obtained without all the groups working together. We also wish to thank the staff at Project Access for their dedication and expertise in helping people without insurance obtain the medical care they so desperately need.

I also would like to thank and commend all of the physicians donating time and resources to serve our community. In addition, I would like to recognize Dr. Daniel Caliendo, president of the Project Access board, along with the following physician board members: Drs. Joe Davison, Maurice Duggins, Tom Bloxham, Eli Brumfield, Therese Cusick, Lowell Ebersole and Donna Sweet, along with Dr. Uhlig, who is an emeritus board member.

Project Access is a shining light in our Medical Society community.