The Free Medical Clinic of America in South Knoxville has appointed a new executive director as it continues to drive service and reach growth. Erica Lyon has over twenty-five years of experience in health-based organizations and health education, with a BSc in Human Development and an MPH from George Washington University.
Erica’s appointment follows an eighteen-month strategic planning and community assessment process. The board has exciting plans to expand the clinic’s services, mission and locations, and the addition of Erica will help galvanize community resources to drive growth.
Dr. Keith Gray, chief medical officer at the University of Tennessee Medical Center, who has spearheaded the growth of the FMCA over the past three years as a board member, said: “Providing health services to workers in Knoxville who otherwise would not have access to basic health care is essential to the development of our community and its people. Erica’s experience in creating and developing public health practice will help us grow, and we are excited about the positive impact she is already having.
Chairman of the Board, Dr. Randall Dabs, added, “We are excited about the role Erica will play in helping us grow as an organization. We have big plans and his experience will be essential to our continued progress against our ambitious goals.
“I am truly honored to join this group to contribute to such an important mission,” said Erica Lyon. “The board is committed to continuing and honoring our founder’s legacy, and it is inspiring to see the community’s commitment and support for the clinic as we help address health inequities. in our region. I love being at the clinic and seeing the direct, life-changing health services we provide. »
The Free Medical Clinic of America (FMCA) was started informally on Chapman Hwy in 1993 by Dr. Tom Kim and officially organized as a 501c3 nonprofit organization in 2005. Dr. Tom Kim rose to fame in Knoxville for his Christian commitment to serving and giving back to his community by providing free health care to uninsured workers. Dr. Kim then opened several free clinics in our area, sparking a movement toward health equity before the topic was even discussed.
Erica Lyon added, “What is incredibly inspiring about working at this clinic is seeing the legacy created by one person’s spark. At FMCA, we’re tackling the real health disparities for an often-overlooked population — hard-working families who can’t afford health insurance premiums, and hourly workers who are building their careers but who don’t yet have health insurance.
“Our goal is to keep people healthy so that they ’employ’ in our region. It’s really exciting when we ‘graduate’ someone from the free clinic because they were able to stay healthy and progress in their career to a job with benefits. Our local economy depends on the workers we keep healthy.
This year, the FMCA added a dental clinic for the uninsured in South Knoxville. Dr. Randall Dabs, Chairman of the FMCA Board of Directors, said, “Adding dental care while we are a primary healthcare facility was the next logical step. When it comes to health, dental health and physical health are often closely linked. We realized that our patient base had very little access to dental care given their low income uninsured status.
Dr. Keith Gray, UTMCK’s chief medical officer, who has championed the clinic since Dr. Kim’s retirement and has served as interim executive director since 2019, added. “We have been incredibly fortunate in community support by continuing Dr. Kim’s vision of health care for uninsured workers and giving back to our communities. We are very grateful to many local groups for helping to support FMCA’s work to add dental services. Tackling health disparities is a passion of mine and the volunteer commitments of the University Medical Center and many physicians and medical education programs in the area have really added to our ability to serve.
Mrs. G is a patient who began her care at Free Medical Care of America approximately two years ago. She managed to control her diabetes and started to lose weight. Ms G said the staff were “really nice and down to earth”.
“They really listen,” she said. “I’ve been to free clinics before, I’d tell them I was diabetic and they would throw expired meds at me. I told them I was struggling to get my sugars down and other clinics gave me told to take more (medication). At the free clinic, they worked with me on my timing and made small changes. I kicked the soda, which I had a real problem with!” says Mrs. G proudly. “The free clinic was also very helpful for my depression, because dealing with diabetes is also depressing.” Mrs. G has lost weight since she started treating her diabetes at the clinic. “In the past I started to feel better, then I stopped the drugs, thanks to my visits here, I understand better how to manage my own health.”
Jim Womack, one of the primary care providers, added, “Many of our patients have multiple health issues. We really work to stabilize them, provide patient education and make them feel like they have a retirement home to come to.