Guest editorial: There is a health care gap in Park City. Thankfully, dedicated Parkites are trying to close it. | ParkRecord.com
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Guest editorial: There is a health care gap in Park City. Thankfully, dedicated Parkites are trying to close it.

Eileen Gallagher, M.D.
Park City

Park City, Utah. The name evokes snow, sparkling celebrities, gorgeous athletes, outdoorsy locals, forward thinking arts and government. Yet for those of us providing health care in the community, it is a town with a plain old all-American gap in health care. We have great health care for those with great health insurance and we have neighbors who can’t afford health care at all. Many don’t realize that our generous community invests tremendous energy and time into bridging that gap. Last week at McPolin Elementary we had an event that represented the best of Park City’s forward thinking and how much needs to be done to bridge the gap in American health care.

I volunteer at People’s Health Clinic and work with Dalia Gonzalez on clinic programming. Thanks to Principal Bob Edmiston at McPolin and Beth Armstrong at People’s Health, we assembled a team this fall to provide health care clinics on site at the school. First, we made a list of what we thought the families at McPolin needed. Then we surveyed the parents. We wanted to give flu shots and nutrition education; the parents hoped for eye exams and dental care. When we met at McPolin to review the survey, the school staff shocked us. They casually related that dozens of students were falling behind in their reading benchmarks because they can’t see well. Their parents don’t have vision insurance (or often any insurance) and can’t afford an optometry visit and glasses. So we got to work.

Dalia called Hope Alliance, the nonprofit that provides access to free vision care here in Utah and in Third World countries. Their new director, Diane Bernhardt, sprang into action and in less than a month arranged a comprehensive vision clinic at McPolin. Our local optometrist, Dr. Stephanie Castle of Park City Vision Source, already donates her time and expertise at People’s Health but agreed to donate even more time in service of our local youth. Then the word spread.

By the time of the actual clinic, Jewish Family Services and the Christian Center of Park City had asked if they could offer access to their counseling services. Big Brothers and Big Sisters offered to teach about their mentoring programs. Summit Pediatrics and People’s Health Clinic set up a table to provide appointments for new patients. And Hope Alliance astounded us all.

The Hope Alliance showed up with all their optometry equipment, a dozen volunteers, Dr. Castle, and a plan to see 10 children in three hours. But word had spread in our community about the clinic. With an impressive frenzy of devotion and skill, Dr. Castle and the Hope Alliance provided complete eye exams and prescriptions to 28 (!) local children in one evening. The children will receive their new glasses this week.

Park City is an amazing place. It’s easy to love the sparkly and fabulous aspects of living here. But I am most proud of the local folks who care for others, who cheerfully donate their skills and expertise, and who keep our children healthy. Thank you again to the teams at People’s Health, McPolin, CCPC, Jewish Family Services, Big Brothers and Sisters, and especially Dr. Castle and The Hope Alliance for an overwhelmingly busy job but one very well done.

If you would like to join the team, just contact Dalia Gonzalez at People’s Health Clinic at dalia@phcpc.org or The Hope Alliance at info@thehopealliance.org. With you, we can bridge the gap in health care, help our neighbors, and make Park City an even better version of itself.


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