After watching an uninsured patient who could not afford treatment die from cervical cancer, Katherine O’Rourke resolved to create a gynecology clinic to offer free accessible to preventative care for low income women.
Cervical, endometrial and uterine cancers are extremely preventable when women have access to the proper gynecological care, O’Rourke said.
Share the Health is a clinic based out of Madison Women’s Health, located near a bus line on Research Park Boulevard, O’Rourke said. The clinic is open the third Thursday evening of every month and is available to patients who are 18 or older, live in Dane County or bordering communities, are below 300 percent of the federal poverty level and do not have insurance, she said.
It was important to offer services to women at a time and place that was convenient to them, O’Rourke said.
She said the idea for Share the Health was developed a little more than a year ago when she approached Mary Landry and inquired about where uninsured women in the Madison area have access to advanced gynecological care. O’Rourke found no such resource existed.
Landry told her none existed and said she thought it was “very sad and very unfortunate.”
O’Rourke and Landry said they reached out to various primary care free clinics in the area and asked if they could provide free gynecological care at their sites. Landry said they received negative responses because these clinics did not have the types of facilities to accommodate the necessary procedures.
Landry said they realized they needed to set up a new clinic and they decided to model it after the free women’s health clinic at Loyola University of Chicago, where O’Rourke had done her training.
O’Rourke said she wanted to give medical students the chance to get involved, learn about gynecology and have the chance to care for patients. Share the Health has collaborated with a large portion of the Madison community, including Meriter Women’s Health, Meriter Hospital, OB-GYNs in the area and University of Wisconsin hospitals and clinics, she said.
Landry said they have also joined forces with a large portion of the student community at UW, including law, medical and business school students.
“In order for two doctors to pull this off in a year for nonprofit, it took a village,” Landry said. “We never could have done this without collaboration with UW undergraduate and graduate students.”
Landry said they have had more volunteers than they need for the next five years, an outpouring of support she said spoke wonderful things about the Madison community.
Share the Health is currently applying for grants, and private donors have been the biggest source of funding so far, O’Rourke said.
Landry and O’Rourke said that regardless of the recent health insurance policy changes, there will still be a need for these types of services for years to come and they are excited to have to clinic open and available to women in need.