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8 COMMUNIQU SUMMER 2015 Alumna Sarah Jessup ghts to ensure health care for her communitys most vulnerable residents. by Pat Grauer Sarah Jessup is known for her independence and tenacity. If her efforts to help the most vulnerable members of her community to get medical care are any example the 1976 MSUCOM alumna has earned her rep. Jessup has retired the quotation marks are raised eyebrow in McCall Idaho a community of about 3000 full-time residents who live high in the mountains on the 45th parallel. The area receives the greatest average snowfall in the state and its lumber mills have given way to alpine skiing resorts swelling the population to 10000 during the summer tourism and winter ski seasons. In 1999 I decided I needed a break from cardiology and I moved from southeast Michigan to the mountains of Idaho attracted by kayaking hiking cycling winter sports and more. Shortly thereafter I was contacted to do volunteer work with DOCARE International and I ended up going to Peru and to Guatemala a couple of times she said. It was great for me but I didnt feel like I was doing enough. Since Im not a surgeon it felt like a Band-Aid approach. With internal medicine you cant just drop in for a couple of weeks because youre usually dealing with chronic conditions. I looked around she said. All around my town 100 mountainous miles from the nearest city there were people who needed medical care and couldnt afford it. Safety nets didnt help Idahos stringent eligibility requirements for Medicaid limited coverage to the level of a single parent making 30 percent of the federal poverty level. Most didnt qualify. Jessup started working through the system to address the need attending meetings working on structures trying to acquire space approaching hospital administrators and other likeminded people. She heard it was a good idea but that it couldnt be done that there were all these obstacles. She kept trying for years. Then Hurricane Katrina happened she said. I contacted an RN in Vidalia Louisiana and she needed someone in two days. I got on a plane and helped out at a free clinic this nurse and friends from her church had just started. It was a revelation. If she could put this together immediately then I could also just do it in McCall. She got other health care professionals to help. They opened a free clinic for the uninsured in 2007 and the hospital seeing it happen offered a cut-rate deal on diagnostic testing. The volunteer corps ballooned to 20 and the patients came some from 75 miles away diabetics who hadnt had medication in two years and hypertensives who hadnt seen a doctor in two decades. With the economic downturn the need for the clinic has only grown. With the advent of the Affordable Care Act some of Jessups patients were positively affected and the patient volume dropped a bit. But many were not helped by the ACA because Idaho chose not to expand Medicaid coverage. We were viewing our clinic as a bridge hoping to join forces with an FQHC Federally Qualied Health Center in Boise she said but it didnt work out and the two-year bridge became an ongoing endeavor. Right now we are in the process of transitioning some of our patients into the local hospitals charitable outpatient care system. This is a different and possibly unique model because property taxes help to support the hospital. There is nancial screening and if you just chose not to have insurance and have money youre expected to pay. Jessup will not be stafng the outpatient clinic but instead is working to obtain funding for the endeavor setting up a structure through the hospitals foundation. The hospital will be providing physician time and space but everything else like medications will need support. Im very excited about the possibilities but Im nervous too she said. Weve nurtured these patients so carefully and they havent intersected with the traditional medical system before. I was able to get a grant for two part-time RNs to be care coordinators and one of these has been involved with our clinic. That will provide our patients with a person someone theyve already met to call to make their appointment and to help them with the details if they feel insecure. I celebrate the volunteers who have kept this going Jessup said particularly Margaret Rosenthal a D.O. who had once served as an MSUCOM clinical associate professor at Bi- County Hospital and who sees more patients in the clinic than anyone. No one at the clinic has been paid at all and weve all been there since the beginning. Whats the next step Shes going on a bicycle trip to the Czech Republic to consider her options. Shes resurrected a long-time passion photography and expects to continue to be active in outdoor sports and volunteering. No matter what Jessup will be taking care of others. This work can be incredibly frustrating but also incredibly rewarding. We see some of the challenges our patients face you know their medical issues are sometimes the smallest problems they have. ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH Sarah Jessup LIFTS UP OTHERS FEATURES