Massachusetts Medical Society: Member Making a Difference - October 2020

Member Making a Difference - October 2020

Dr. Jane Lochrie

Jane Lochrie, MD

For 24 years, Jane Lochrie, MD, has been making a difference for Central Massachusetts patients as a volunteer at the weekly Saint Anne’s Free Medical Program in Shrewsbury. There, she supervises the other physicians (including residents), medical students, and other volunteers who typically see more than 70 patients every Tuesday evening.

In 2018, Dr. Lochrie retired from directing the internal medicine residency program at St. Vincent’s Hospital and from her internal medicine practice in the Reliant Medical Group. But she continued as medical director at Saint Anne’s.

In September, she opened a similar free clinic in Saint Peter’s Catholic Church in Worcester, aided by others and a $22,000 grant from the Massachusetts Medical Society and Alliance Charitable Foundation. A prior Foundation grant funds pathology services for Saint Anne’s patients in need of endometrial or cervical biopsies. Both clinics belong to the Worcester Free Clinic Coalition, whose programs provide free health care services to uninsured or underinsured patients. And both clinics, Dr Lochrie emphasizes, are not her work alone, but rather represent the diligence and dedication of scores of medical students and other volunteers over many years.

Earlier this year, Dr Lochrie received the 2020 MMS Senior Volunteer Physician of the Year Award. She recently shared with Vital Signs some reflections on volunteering.

VS: You started your career as a nurse. Did that affect your work as a physician?

Lochrie: Absolutely. It gives you a different perspective on what the patient experiences. The physician may spend a few minutes at the bedside, but nurses are there for eight hours. As a nurse, you know how hard it is for the patient. The experience also helped me improve my interpersonal skills. I’m proud of those years.

VS: When did you begin working at Saint Anne’s evening clinic?

Lochrie: In 1996, the year it opened. Dr. Harvey Clermont, who started the clinic, was a vascular surgeon at Fallon Clinic where I worked then, and he recruited me. I grew up in Dorchester and always felt a need to give back to the community. This was inspired by my parents and also as a student at Catholic schools for 12 years.

VS: You have worked with medical students for decades. Have students changed over the years?

Lochrie: The students are absolutely wonderful. We could not run the free clinics without them.

Dr. Lochrie in Haiti
Beyond Massachusetts, Dr. Lochrie has participated in medical missions to Guatemala and Haiti (shown above). Photo by Dr. Nandana Kansra.

I’m seeing a lot more student interest in volunteering now. Saint Anne’s was closed for months due to COVID. During this time, the med students kept in touch with me, asking if there was anything they could do for patients. Some even started a telehealth meeting for patients who were being seen at other clinics but maybe had questions or needed prescriptions. On the night Saint Anne’s reopened, the students were saying how important this work was to them and how happy they were to be back.

Students now are more aware of the needs of patients who live below the poverty level or are homeless. Medical schools now teach about health care disparities and the social determinants of health. When I was in medical school, we didn’t have that opportunity.

VS: What was it like to create a clinic from scratch at Saint Peter’s?

Lochrie: It takes a lot to set up a clinic in a church hall or a space that is also used as a basketball court. Everything has to be portable, with collapsible tables and exam rooms [so they can be set up and broken down for each clinic night]. And we built a cage for safe storage of syringes for immunizations.

VS: What are the typical needs of your clinic patients?

Lochrie: We serve the most vulnerable of members of our community. On the first night that we opened Saint Peter’s, someone overdosed just outside the church, and fortunately we had Narcan on hand.

But typically, our most common visits are work physicals at Saint Peter’s and school physicals at Saint Anne’s, where we see pediatric patients. Access to a work physical can help bring someone into the “system” with a job and some kind of health care insurance, which all give a person that sense of dignity. So, it is not just doing a physical exam — you may be providing a life-changing event.

For the children in this vulnerable population and within a large immigrant population, schooling could be delayed without a physical. Even if they were able to obtain insurance, it may take a long time to get an appointment elsewhere, especially now with COVID-19. Students may not have English as their first language and already be behind. Just doing simple things like providing a school physical and giving the immunizations makes a big difference in their lives.

VS: What would you tell a physician colleague about volunteering, particularly in retirement?

Lochrie: I think of one of my favorite quotes from Mother Teresa: “Not all of us can do great things. But we can all do small things with great love.” That’s what the free clinics are all about.

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