Like many nonprofits, Oasis Free Clinics has core values - a set of principles that make it clear to our patients and partners what we stand for. They guide our decision-making, inspire our team and shape the way we work.
One of our values at Oasis is service. As an organization created 26 years ago by a volunteer at Tedford Housing who saw a need for free healthcare for homeless people, serving others has been at the heart of Oasis. Since our inception, we have firmly believed in the importance of sharing our talent and our time for the good of others.
This concept of service for the good of others is held in high regard by another local organization. Bowdoin College identifies a dedication to the common good as one of their key organizational values. According to the Bowdoin College website, on September 2, 1802, Bowdoin President Joseph McKeen committed the college to the idea that education should benefit society, not just the individual. Through the McKeen Center for the Common Good, course offerings and campus events, Bowdoin encourages students to think and act beyond themselves in order to contribute to the common good.
It’s no surprise that Oasis founder Dr Peter McGuire is a Bowdoin College alumnus. Returning to Brunswick after his medical studies and residency as well as a tour of Vietnam, Dr McGuire was on the board of Tedford Housing when he found that there was no room for the sans. – shelter for free medical care. He quickly rallied his colleagues and set up a walk-in medical clinic. Since then, thousands of people have received free medical and dental care.
We are fortunate that several Bowdoin alumni and staff continue to bring the spirit of the common good to Oasis. This includes Bowdoin’s Director of Health Services and long-time Oasis volunteer physician Dr Jeff Maher, as well as Bowdoin staff and former board members Megan Hart and Dr Seth Ramus. Additionally, Heather Rankin, Dr John LaCasse and Abigail Isaacson Abbott currently serve on the Board of Directors, and Dr Stephen Loebs recently completed a six-year term.
With a history of people connected to both college and Oasis, one wonders how time spent at Bowdoin shaped their urge to serve. When asked, Ms Abbott said: ‘Two of my favorite teachers at Bowdoin were Government Department Professors Jean Yarbrough and Paul Franco. In their classes, we discussed the role of government in society, but also the vital function that civic organizations play in meeting the needs of a community. This reinforced for me the importance of participating in organizations like Oasis.
For Dr LaCasse, reflecting on his time at Bowdoin, he recognized that the idea of giving back started as a student. He says, “I was very lucky to attend Bowdoin and this feeling makes me want to volunteer for good causes. Helping Oasis, however small, gives me a chance to give back to Bowdoin and my healthcare career. “
Most recently, our relationship with the McKeen Center for the Common Good and the Pre-Health Advising Program has provided students with valuable experience as they consider careers in public health and medicine. Sarah Seames, Director of the McKeen Center, said: “We see (Oasis) as co-educators for Bowdoin students, teaching them values and practices of respect, empowerment and the common good. “
A recent example is Eskedar Girmash, who worked with us in the summer of 2019. According to Ms. Girmash,
“As a student, I often found myself exploring the question – How can we work for the common good and how do I fit into this work? The Common Good has always seemed to me to be an abstract concept. At Oasis, I was able to learn more about the needs of the Brunswick community and how community members were responding to those needs by ensuring that everyone who walked through the clinic was respected, cared for and really seen. Oasis has strengthened my commitment to practice medicine in underserved communities.
It’s hard to say for sure, but I guess this dedication combined with action is exactly what President McKeen hoped for when he hired Bowdoin and his students for the common good almost 220 years ago. I know this is why at Oasis we have included service as one of our core values - because we know that freely giving of your time, skills and expertise in the service of others has a positive impact. on both the donor and the recipient.
As Ms. Girmash said of Oasis, “I see Oasis as the embodiment of the common good in Brunswick. The Clinic’s mission is a testament to the power of working collectively to create an environment where all individuals can live healthy, happy and safe. Oasis’ commitment to the community and working with other providers to meet all of the health and social needs of patients is especially helpful for the common good.
Bowdoin College provides the common good to Oasis through its students, staff, faculty and alumni, while Oasis provides learning, service and advocacy opportunities on behalf of our patients. By working together, the two organizations contribute to the greater good and health of our community.
Oasis Free Clinics is a no-profit, no-cost medical practice and dental clinic providing patient-centered care to uninsured adults in Midcoast, Maine. For more information, call 721-9277 or visit http://oasisfreeclinics.org.
Anita Ruff is the Executive Director of Oasis Free Clinics. Giving Voice is a weekly collaboration between four local nonprofit service organizations to share information and stories about their work in the community.