Health

Profile: Iowa City doctor finds passion at Iowa City Free Medical Clinic

Ovrom: Free clinic changed my perspective

Dr. Fred Ovrom has a word with staff before seeing a patient at the Iowa City Free Medical clinic on Thursday night, February 28, 2019. Ovrom has spent the last 25 years volunteering at the free clinic in Iowa City. (Ben Roberts/Freelance)
Dr. Fred Ovrom has a word with staff before seeing a patient at the Iowa City Free Medical clinic on Thursday night, February 28, 2019. Ovrom has spent the last 25 years volunteering at the free clinic in Iowa City. (Ben Roberts/Freelance)
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IOWA CITY — For Dr. Fred Ovrom, using his skill set to help others is “a no-brainer.”

In addition to his full-time job as an internal medicine doctor with Mercy Towncrest Internal Medicine, Ovrom volunteers twice a month at the Iowa City Free Medical Clinic. The nonprofit offers primary and chronic medical care, dental and eye care services and prescription medications to uninsured or underinsured residents.

Ovrom has been volunteering at the free clinic since his family moved back to Iowa City in 1990.

“Once you get started, its hard to stop,” he said. “It’s a really enjoyable experience.”

Volunteering at the clinic also has become a family affair.

Dr. Maureen Connolly, an internist at Mercy Towncrest Internal Medicine and Ovrom’s wife, was medical director of the free clinic for 10 years. Connolly still regularly volunteers there, along with their son, Erik Ovrom, who is a premedical student at the University of Iowa.

Fred Ovrom also attended medical school at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, then completed his residency at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City.

He worked in Tucson, Ariz., for about three years before joining the Mercy Iowa City clinic.

As an internist — or an internal medicine doctor — Ovrom specializes in prevention, diagnosis and treatment of adult diseases.

However, his focus at the Free Medical Clinic is primary care. Patients who don’t have insurance or their insurance wouldn’t cover a private physician visit go to the free clinic for a variety of conditions, such as sore throats, sexually transmitted diseases or high blood pressure.

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“The people you’re seeing tend to have greater needs than those in the private practice setting,” Ovrom said. “You can typically do more in one visit than you can in private practice, and people just appreciate it. They often don’t have any other resources, and they’re happy to find this one resource available to them.”

Barbara Vinograde, executive director of the Iowa City Free Medical Clinic, described Ovrom as “a foundation of the free clinic.”

“He is an excellent practitioner, and he’s also extremely compassionate and committed to the clinic’s work,” she said. “He recognizes why the clinic being in Iowa City is so important.”

His role at the Iowa City Free Medical Clinic changed his perception on access to health care. Before, he said he presumed patients at a free clinic would be homeless or otherwise down on their luck.

“In reality, the majority of (patients) are working, smart, successful in their own ways but they don’t have health insurance,” Ovrom said. “ ... We’re seeing poor and working middle class who don’t have health insurance. It’s a lot different in that regard than I expect.”

He added, “You see all these people, and it’s so right in your face that they need adequate health care, and it’s not available to them.”

Ovrom said he plans to continue volunteering at the free clinic as long as he can.

“I’ll probably continue after I’m retired,” Ovrom said. “I don’t see any reason to stop.”

• Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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