BY ANITA RUFF, OASIS FREE CLINIC EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Last week, Lois Skillings stepped down as the President of Mid Coast-Parkview Health after 11 years. When I came to Oasis seven years ago, one of the first calls I received was from Lois, inviting me to meet with her. During that first meeting, she shared with me that she had been a volunteer nurse with Oasis in the early 1990s and how much she enjoyed her time serving our patients.
Lois talked about the commitment that Mid Coast made to Oasis over the years by providing clinic space and financial support to make sure that our free services are available. She reiterated that commitment was as strong as ever, providing me with the names of key staff who could help on a variety of issues. On a personal level, Lois welcomed me to the role as a new executive director, offering to meet with her whenever I needed guidance or someone to listen.
Since that first meeting, our decades-long partnership with Mid Coast-Parkview Health has continued to grow and strengthen. We are located at 66 Baribeau Dr. in the Mid Coast Professional Building along with several Mid Coast programs. We have developed strong connections to the other clinical and community programs in our building, often walking with our patients to their office to introduce them and get them connected to services. Our colleagues often do the same for their patients when they think someone is eligible for Oasis. We mingle at holiday parties, share the bounty when food is generously dropped off at the clinic, and loan supplies when needed.
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, as health care organizations were grappling with supply shortages, we realized that we had items that might be useful to the providers at Mid Coast. We gathered up masks and gloves from our dental clinic and took them to our colleagues at Mid Coast. Likewise, we turned to the Mid Coast leadership for guidance on safety protocols. When Mid Coast needed additional management support with the COVID vaccination clinics, they asked if I could help. Without hesitation, the Oasis Board of Directors and I agreed, and for the next year, I worked with the amazing Mid Coast team on their incredible effort to vaccinate our community.
I should also mention that Mid Coast physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses, social workers, administrators, and others have volunteered hundreds of hours to Oasis. They have treated our patients with compassion, served on our Board of Directors, and donated money to sustain our organization. We at Oasis have helped Mid Coast patients who needed dental work done before they could start cancer treatment or have orthopedic surgery. These are just a few of the countless examples of how Mid Coast and Oasis have worked together for the health and well-being of our community over the past 30 years.
The relationship that Oasis Free Clinics has with Mid Coast-Parkview Health is unusual. After talking with other free clinics in Maine and across the country, it is clear that we have something special. That should come as no surprise to those of us who live in this community, though.
Thanks to the leadership of Lois (and Herb Paris before her), we have one of the best community hospitals in Maine. It’s a small hospital with a big heart, one that cares deeply for its patients, employees, and community – and for the free clinic that it was integral in creating almost 30 years ago.
If you want proof that Mid Coast is a special place, here’s a story. After the announcement of Lois’ retirement and the selection of Dr. Chris Bowe as her successor came out, I got a text from my 19-year-old daughter who is in college in Pennsylvania. It read. “What do we think of this Dr. Bowe? I need all of the Mid Coast news.” I replied, “He’s the one who gave your COVID vaccine.” Her immediate response was, “OH! I am pro-Dr. Bowe!!!”
Three things are extraordinary about this exchange. The first is that a 19-year-old would be interested in a leadership transition at the local hospital. The second is that, upon learning who the new leader would be, she was excited because she had already established a personal and positive connection with the new hospital president. Finally, the third thing that is extraordinary is that, in addition to guiding the hospital through complicated times, Dr. Bowe, as well as Lois, made time to be at the vaccination clinic, giving community members like my daughter their first dose of the COVID vaccine.
It can be easy to forget that healthcare doesn’t look like this for many communities; we are fortunate to have leaders that value collaboration and partnerships. Oasis patients and staff benefit from the relationship we have the Mid Coast, and we are grateful for that generosity.
While Lois will be dearly missed, I am happy for her and her well-earned retirement! At Oasis, we, like my daughter, are pro-Dr. Bowe, and are excited to work with him in his new role. The Board and staff of Oasis are looking forward to the next chapter in our long partnership with Mid Coast-Parkview Health.
The Oasis Free Clinics is a nonprofit, no-cost primary care medical practice and dental clinic, providing exceptional, patient-centered care to uninsured members of our community. For more information, call (207) 721-9277 or visit OasisFreeClinics.org.
Giving Voice is a weekly collaboration among four local nonprofit service agencies to share information and stories about their work in the community.