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About 60 people attend Sweetheart Gala to raise money for clinic

Proceeds will go to Walnut Street Community Health Center in Hagerstown

February 12, 2011|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI | alnotarianni@aol.com
  • Tracy Salvagno and her husband, Dr. Ralph Salvagno, foreground, of Hancock, chat with Dr. Tara Scheck and her husband Bryan Scheck, of Hagerstown, Saturday evening at the Walnut Street Community Health Center's second annual Sweetheart Gala at Fountain Head Country Club.
By Alicia Notarianni, Staff Writer

People who are un- or under-insured typically do not receive comprehensive medical care.

They tend to seek treatment in critical or emergency situations, Dr. Johnson Koilpillai said.

The staff at Walnut Street Community Health Center in Hagerstown, where Koilpillai serves as medical director, aspires to change that tendency by providing consistent care whether patients have insurance or not.

The center hosted its second annual Sweetheart Gala Saturday night at Fountain Head Country Club as a fundraiser to support that goal.

"I think it's important to serve the underserved in the community," Koilpillai said. "Working with this population poses some challenges, but I feel rewarded because most patients are quite grateful for the center. Without it, their care would be erratic and limited."

The center's Executive Director Kim Murdaugh said it provides traditional primary care for about 6,000 patients through 30,000 visits annually. Clinicians offer traditional primary care and focus on prevention. Many of the center's patients have chronic medical needs.

"Coming to our practice really benefits (patients). We meet their ongoing needs for medication and monitoring," Murdaugh said. "Providing a family physician who consistently sees patients and reviews and oversees their health care is probably the best way to treat most patients."

More than 60 people attended the gala, where tickets cost $60 each. Upbeat love songs played during the reception and dinner.

Murdaugh said the event was a good way to raise money while increasing community awareness of the center and the services it provides. Last year's gala brought in around $4,000, in part through ticket sales, sponsorships and a silent auction.

"We hope this year is even better," Murdaugh said.

Dr. Ralph Salvagno and his wife, Tracy Salvagno, of Hancock, attended the event.

"We thought it would be nice to support Walnut Street and all the good work they've done," Ralph Salvagno said.

Keith Dunham of Williamsport went to the fundraiser with his girlfriend Anne Hott. Dunham said he liked the concept of the health center and its efforts to provide comprehensive care as a community-based organization. He said the gala was "terrific."

"It's just a little past the holiday season, when people are starting to reflect on the resolutions they made at the beginning of the year to help people," Dunham said. "And you get to dance."

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