A mission field in Western Tidewater

Published 11:36 am Friday, September 25, 2015

If an Obici Healthcare Foundation-funded partnership between the Western Tidewater Free Clinic and Eastern Virginia Medical School had resulted only in a regular supply of interns and residents coming to Suffolk to see indigent and uninsured patients, then the partnership would have been a rousing success.

Every extra medical professional that volunteers his or her time at the free clinic increases the number of hours available for patients to be seen — and therefore, by extension, the number of patients who can take advantage of the free services offered there.

But that partnership also has resulted in a benefit that it’s likely nobody ever expected: Because of their partnership and the experience she received from it, Dr. April Foster, a 2014 EVMS graduate, has chosen to join the free clinic as its new medical director.

Foster first came into contact with the clinic while a student at EVMS, training under Dr. Terri Babineau. After her graduation in July 2014, Foster found a job at an urgent care clinic, but she continued to volunteer as a physician at WTFC.

“This is my Haiti,” said Foster, referring to her conviction following a mission trip at the age of 18 that God was drawing her to the mission field. Since taking the full-time position as medical director at the clinic for Western Tidewater, she has come to realize she is “able to do what He’s asked me to do here in my backyard.”

Foster now sees patients at the clinic full-time, along with a full-time and a part-time nurse practitioner and several volunteer physicians. And while most of those patients don’t experience poverty on the same level as the people she served when she visited the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, even in Suffolk she confronts some pretty serious suffering from time to time.

Foster described a recent patient’s visit to a reporter, noting that her interaction with the patient quickly moved from the stuff of a typical health care visit to the recognition that he was homeless and starving and in need of help even more basic than medical care.

There are many mission fields in this broken world, and this area has its share. Fortunately for those in the greatest need here in Western Tidewater, people like Dr. April Foster have recognized they don’t have to travel far to help others. We welcome her to the community.