CEDAR RAPIDS — A Cedar Rapids physician will receive a statewide honor this week for his work providing health care for those who otherwise can’t afford it.
Dr. James Bell on Tuesday will be inducted into the Iowa Volunteer Hall of Fame for his role with His Hands Free Clinic, the faith-based Cedar Rapids provider that offers free health care to under- and uninsured residents in Linn and surrounding counties.
“I am honored to be recognized,” Bell said. “I would like credit to go where it’s due and honestly, it’s been the effort of a lot of people.”
The honor is given to those who “have freely given their precious time and talent in countless ways to benefit others,” according to the Iowa Volunteer Hall of Fame website.
Since its inception in 1989, more than 70 individuals have been inducted.
Bell, a hospice and palliative physician with UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital, founded what has now become His Hands Free Clinic in 1992.
In 2017, His Hands Free Clinic had 2,884 patient visits and saw 1,209 unique patients.
Bell sees patients once a month. He also serves as the clinic’s medical director and sits on the board of directors.
Dawn Brouwers, executive director of His Hands Free Clinic, nominated Bell in honor of the clinic’s 25th anniversary last year.
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“When we turned 25, we realized this is quite the institution (Bell) has developed,” Brouwers said. “He’s one of those silent people. He would never toot his own horn.”
Bell said the call to do something for the underserved population in his community came from a 1991 conference of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations. With some of his colleagues, they opened the Cedar Rapids Free Medical Clinic in the YMCA, seeing patients while using sheets to create separate examining rooms.
The free clinic continued to grow. However, the clinic’s board of directors split over ideological differences in the early 2000s, with one group going on to form the Community Health Free Clinic in Cedar Rapids.
Bell and his group, who wanted to maintain faith within its mission, opened His Hands.
“The ultimate difference that we’re trying to make is one of spiritual awareness and transformation,” Bell said.
Over the past 26 years, His Hands Free Clinic has seen more than 10,000 patients. Under Bell’s guidance, the clinic’s services have grown to include dental, chiropractic, optical, mental health, women’s health and more, Brouwers said.
Today, clinic personnel has grown to include nine staff members, nine volunteer physicians and three nurse practitioners, as well as chiropractors, dentists, an orthopedic surgeon and a cardiologist.
“The way I look at it, Dr. Bell has made a huge impact of health care for people without insurance,” Brouwers said. “He will not be an easy person to replace.”
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