Daily Point of Light # 1636 May 11, 2000

A number of years ago, a need was perceived in the Alleghany Highlands, a rural mountainous region of Virginia, that a great number of people were not receiving adequate medical attention. The region, home to a large low-income population with out means of primary medical care, is designated as medically underserved.

Dr. Lassere, a local gynecologist, led the medical community of the Alleghany Highlands to start a free clinic in that area. This was a big task because not only did he have to convince the physicians and this hospital that this was necessary, but he had to convince the business community that it was worthy of support. He and the other supporters then had to go to an independent-minded, but needy, community and sell the notion that the free clinic was not a handout.

Dr. Lassere researched models for delivering healthcare to the medically indigent, volunteering his time in a neighboring county and traveling to Roanoke, VA to become familiar with a successful free clinic. In early 1998, with the advent of potential funding through a local charitable foundation, Dr. Lassere seized the opportunity to make a free clinic a reality for the Alleghany Highlands.

With his vision and leadership the Free Clinic opened its doors in October 1998 with the pledged support of every local physician and the two hospitals serving the area. From the earliest stages of organization, and throughout the first 18 months of the clinic’s operations, Dr. Lassere has given countless hours of service and support. He has assisted with the development of an administrative infrastructure and overseen the majority of the clinic’s 150 lay and clinical volunteers, delivered care at the clinic, and coordinated all of the follow-up care. At present, there more than 300 patients are treated at the clinic for conditions ranging from sinus infections to chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, as well as life-threatening conditions for which surgeries were done. Six of these patients have been diagnosed with cancer and are currently receiving treatment arranged by the Free Clinic. These cancers, if left undetected and untreated, are known to be fatal.

Dr. Lassere has empowered the community with a cost effective and compassionate system for providing health care to those that can not afford it. He has provided untold hours of volunteer service to help the region develop its own response to providing health care for those in need.