July 19, 2008

Time for a New HOPE: Doctors From Corpus Christi Visit Local Clinic

By Monica Green, Cleburne Times-Review, Texas

Jul. 18--A friend watched while Dr. Tony Torres started the HOPE Clinic, a free clinic for the uninsured, in Cleburne.

The friend came to visit several times throughout the creation of the clinic and came back to visit this week, this time bringing some friends with him.

Torres' friend is Dr. Juan Sygal, a physician of internal medicine in Corpus Christi, and the visitors he brought with him were other doctors who are interested in creating a free clinic in Corpus Christi.

Sygal said he wants to start a clinic "because of the need."

"Corpus Christi is a place with lots of poor people and very sick people, so there is a large need," he said. "The vision is to reach out to those in need. This is what it's all about, being a physician, and this is our beliefs."

Sygal's wife, Maria; Dr. Teofilo Espiritu, a pediatrician; and Bill Lindeman, pastor of Seventh-day Adventist Church of Corpus Christi, and his wife, Cheryl, accompanied Sygal on the journey to Cleburne to visit the HOPE Clinic.

The five arrived Wednesday night and spent Thursday morning touring the clinic and watching how things worked as patients were seen and treated.

Since its creation a year and a half ago, the HOPE clinic has seen almost 3,000 patients, Torres said.

Sygal, who has practiced medicine for 14 years, and Espiritu, who has 18 years of practice, are the first two doctors planning to practice at a free clinic when they are able to open one. They plan to have one that offers medical and dental care, and also have a dentist planning to work with them.

"We have many people interested in helping us," Sygal said. "Nurses, doctors, a dentist and more. We are in the process of putting things together but hopefully will start soon."

The HOPE Clinic took three years of preparation before opening, Torres said, and Espiritu joked that they will try to beat them and open theirs in two years.

"We are sharing information we have," Torres said. "Telling them about networking contacts, the history of the free clinic movement, and anything that might help them.

"We are willing to go down there with them and help them get going when they are ready. There is a lot of work to do behind the scenes. We trust in a higher power. I can see the hand of God blessing this work."

"There's an urgency in my heart and the hearts of those in my church," Lindeman said, "to add something of significance to our community."

Torres plans to continue assisting the doctors in creating a free clinic in Corpus Christi in the next few years.

"The need for free clinics for the uninsured is going to be greater in the future with the way the economy is," Torres said. "If you have something like this to help people when a crisis does happen, you have a little bit of a safety net for the community."


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