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Clinic director settling into position

January 12, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Christina Rudden says her job as executive director of the Community Free Clinic in Hagerstown is to keep the clinic healthy so the staff and volunteers can concentrate on keeping thousands of uninsured Washington County residents healthy.

Rudden took the position in late summer and has been familiarizing herself with the operation of the clinic at 18 W. Franklin St. in Hagerstown. A Frederick County, Md., resident, she said she saw the advertisement for the position and realized it was time for a change.

"I had been working in the business of health and it was wearing me down," Rudden said. "Health should be about patients, not just numbers and spreadsheets."

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In that vein, Rudden announced that starting this week, clients will be able to schedule visits for the first time in the clinic's 13-year history.

"It has always been first come, first served and that meant people often had to wait outside in the cold," Rudden said. "It breaks our hearts to see people waiting in the cold, so we will be doing appointments just like any other primary care facility."

Rudden came to the position from her most recent stint as public relations/physician liaison with Open MRI of Frederick.

Rudden also spent several years in the information-technology sector in the Frederick/Washington, D.C., area, and her rsum includes work with the Susan G. Komen cancer organization, the AIDS Walk, Hoops for Hope and the Congressional Baseball Game for Charity.

She is a performing member and marketing director of the Frederick Orchestra. She and her husband, Brian, recently moved to Middletown, Md.

In 2003, the clinic tallied 10,300 patient visits. The actual number of patients varies, since many of the clinic's clients have conditions that require them to check in on a regular basis.

"Hagerstown is very lucky to have this clinic," Rudden said, noting it is one of only four such facilities in Maryland and just 200 nationwide.

There are 10 paid staff. Including Rudden, there is an office manager, a clinic director, a patient coordinator, a medical assistant and five part-time nurses. That includes three registered nurses, one who handles all Medicare patients and one who coordinates medications.

"The rest are hardworking volunteers," Rudden said.

While much of her time is spent writing grants to qualify for financial support, Rudden said she doesn't want to lose sight of why the clinic exists.

"I want us to become a full-time center here, offering classes for diabetics and asthmatics, and therapy for people with joint problems," Rudden said. "We're committed to the health and wellness of our patients."

While still learning how the clinic ticks, Rudden said she is at the helm at a time when the clinic is evolving from a volunteer board-driven facility to one run by the staff, which Rudden feels is a step in the right direction.

While the current location has its limitations, Rudden said she sees the clinic staying put, "unless someone hands us a building."

The clinic gets no state or federal funding, instead depending on contributions through the United Way, grants, individuals, memorial gifts, foundations, businesses and civic groups. And the clinic gets a sizeable contribution from the Washington County Gaming Commission, Rudden said.

The biggest expense at the clinic is medications, which are given out free to clients who qualify for medical care. Next comes staff, professional expenses and overhead.

The operating budget is $400,000 a year, Rudden said.

The clinic gives away more than $2.4 million in medical care each year, which includes $86,000 in medications every month.

While the job is formidable, Rudden said she is happy to be working with the dedicated staff and volunteers who are guiding the clinic into the future.

For more information about the clinic, call 301-733-9234.

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