For nearly 14 years in her role as Vice President of Mission Services at Intermountain Health Care, Pamela Atkinson was exposed to the dire needs in the community and determined to do something to help. She had a corporate responsibility, which includes assessing and planning to meet the health care needs of the under-served. But Pamela wanted to do more personally and volunteered as a citizen of the community to advocate for the homeless and low- income populations, focus her concerns on the needs of the children in these groups.
The outcome of Atkinson’s work was two-fold. First, she felt that having health care available tin close proximity to the children was primary. So she developed school-based clinics at Lincoln Elementary and Rose Park Elementary in Salt Lake, that serve children and their families from space allocated in the school. Then, in a low-income zip code area of Salt Lake City that has no physician offices or clinics, she established the David E. Salisbury IHC Neighborhood Clinic, a community-based clinic at a multi-cultural center that provides care to children and families at little or no cost. Secondly, Atkinson determined to focus on reaching out to low-income families through health assessment fairs held at local schools.
Atkinson volunteered every Thursday morning on the Volunteers of America Homeless Outreach van, searching through the homeless camps to reach those in need. She filled the van with donations of toiletries, socks, underwear and sleeping bags from IHC employees, Boy Scouts and individuals. She also carried all of these same items in her own car to use when she helped serve dinner at the Salvation Army three times a month. If she found a need to be met, you could be certain to see her with the back of her car open digging through bags and boxes to find just the right item to help.
Not only did Pamela serve the human homeless population – she did not forget the animals of her homeless friends. As she was often known to comment, “Sometimes a homeless person’s dog or cat is their only source of love and companionship.” IN an effort to help this specific animal population, Atkinson carried dog food in her car just to make sure these pets had food to eat. If one of the pets became ill, she would refer her homeless friend to a local veterinarian and pay for the treatment out of her own pocket.
Even though Atkinson retired from IHC in January of 2002, she continues to serve on the boards of several community health centers and homeless clinics; on planning committees and boards of agencies that serve the homeless; and enlists the help of those within the community to help others. Her deeply personal desire to serve those who are the most in need of help will continue through her personal volunteer efforts for years to come.