Military Doctors Can Now Volunteer at Free Clinics in MS

The Bethel Free Health Clinic in Biloxi has been dealing with physician shortages for months now, and a state law has hindered doctors at military bases from volunteering their services since they are generally not licensed through the state.

The Bethel Free Health Clinic has been in desperate need of volunteer doctors to see those without health insurance for months. Right now, David Clippinger is the only working doctor, and because of his health, he can only work two half days a week. Dr. Clippinger says, "Many days, we have to turn people away because physically, I can’t do any more than that."

Military doctors and physician assistants have expressed interest in volunteering for the free clinic, but under state law, they can’t unless they have a Mississippi license, which can cost as much as $700. Jennifer Spicer, student at Tulane University, says, "I’m in the military and I work for a medical unit, so I know reserve doctors would really enjoy volunteering their time."

Spicer worked with the Bethel Free Health Clinic for one of her public relations classes. She recognized their need for help, took a trip up to Jackson, and made local representative, Scott Delano, aware of the issue. He has now gotten a bill passed. As of July 1st, military doctors will be able to volunteer at free health clinics without purchasing a Mississippi license. Spicer also says, "It hit me how many people this will affect. Every free health clinic in Mississippi can now get more doctors in to volunteer."

The efforts of this student will help many under-served residents of the Gulf Coast. Dr. Clippinger closes, "People come because they can’t go anywhere else, they can’t get their prescriptions filled.”

Those at the clinic hope once this law goes into effect in July, they’ll get enough volunteers to open every day of the week and get those without insurance the care they need.

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