No one has been engaged in serving GraceMed longer than Kerin Smith and her husband, Jim. She worked as a nurse from 1992 to 1995, then served on the Board of Directors and finally founded the GraceMed Guild — a group of volunteers for GraceMed— where she continues to serve today.
How and when did you first got involved with GraceMed?
The first one I would mention was Sandra Parker Lyon, who was our executive director at the time. She had been with the clinic for a long time, ever since they had first established it, I think. She stayed with us through the transition to United Methodist Health Clinic. She made a big contribution to the growth of the clinic.
Another person was Dr. Jana Nisly who was working there when I came. She was our medical director, and she just had a nice manner with the patients and the families and really a good spirit to work with people. We were getting a lot of Hispanic families in at that time and Dr. Nisly spoke Spanish. All of us learned a little bit of it. She went on to be a missionary in El Salvador where she still lives.
What were some of the early challenges you faced and how did you deal with them?
The rise of the HIV epidemic triggered OSHA to set up safety standards in the workplace. So we tried to get those standards set up for the clinic as well. When I first went to work, someone handed me a card file and told me these are your policies and procedures for the clinic. What was in it were some cards that told me where to order supplies. I didn’t think that was really what we needed, so during the time that I was there, I wrote the policies and procedures for the clinic, and we got our OSHA standards set up.
Also, more people were coming to us because they couldn’t get health insurance. We were just trying to keep up with the need. At one point, they closed the practice (to new patients) because there were more people that were needing to be seen than we could handle.
There was also a time when we struggled with finances, and we just had to take steps to be able to survive. We tried to find ways we could raise some money. Later when we brought Dave Sanford in, now retired as of Jan 2020, he really had the gift of finding resources and putting them to work. He really had a skill set for raising funds and writing grants. He had a heart for it and a way of seeing it that was a blessing for GraceMed.
When I was doing outreach to help with some funding, I would visit churches in small towns around Wichita and a lot of those people didn’t have healthcare either. And I thought, wouldn’t it be nice if we could have little clinics in some of these surrounding towns. They opened that recent one in Clearwater that’s kind of what I had in mind. So, I was real happy to see that come to fruition.