116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
This year, the Iowa City Free Medical and Dental Clinic is celebrating a very significant anniversary.
Fifty years ago, on March 19, 1971, the first free clinic was held in Iowa City. Since then, thousands and thousands of uninsured people in our community have had a place to go for needed medical and dental care.
The Iowa City Free Clinic is the second-longest-running free clinic in the United States. We are here today because of incredible community support - support that has allowed us to grow and to thrive. We work with hundreds of volunteers from a wide range of disciplines and have many strong partnerships with local organizations and businesses. We now serve as a medical home for most of our patients, 60 percent of whom are diagnosed with at least one chronic disease. We hold six medical and three dental clinics a week, as well as providing specialty services including ophthalmology, dermatology and prenatal care.
The clinic has been through many changes in its 50 years. In its first year, it had to move three times until it landed in the basement of the Wesley Foundation. Thanks to the generosity and compassion of Dave Schuldt, who was the foundation's director and served on the clinic's board of directors for many years, the space was rent-free for the first five years. Wesley served as the clinic's home until 2006, at which time it moved to the current location at 2440 Towncrest Dr.
Like all medical practices, this past year was challenging for our patients, staff and volunteers. Our service delivery had to change, but we stayed open. Today, while we are not yet back to our pre-pandemic level of service, we have systems in place to safely provide care for many people.
While the clinic's primary mission is health care, it also serves as an educational site for medical, dental, nursing and public health students. These future providers get the opportunity to work in an uninsured, free clinic environment, and to learn about the barriers to health care access.
In a 1986 interview with the Press-Citizen, Dave Schuldt said, 'At the Free Clinic, everyone learns a lot.” Dave was a wise man, and his words are so true. I know how much I've learned in my years at the clinic. I've learned how much a community can do when they work together. I've learned how much it means to provide someone with a month of insulin, a needed mammogram or a dental appointment. I've learned how fortunate I am to have had health insurance most of my life. And I've learned that Free Clinic services are very much needed.
If you would like to learn more about the clinic, please visit our Facebook page, where we are posting stories from our past and highlighting community partnerships. We are also working on an oral history project, which will be on our website, through which past volunteers, staff and supporters will share their clinic experiences. And, if all goes well, we will have an open house in the fall.
The founders of the clinic believed access to health care was a basic human necessity and right. This belief remains at the heart of the clinic's continuing work.
Barbara Vinograde is executive director of the Iowa City Free Medical and Dental Clinic.