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Photography courtesy of April Cook

Movers & Shakers

Driving around the Lake Norman area with its pristine homes and manicured lawns, it’s easy to forget that not everyone lives that way. But in fact, many in our community live in poverty, and no one knows that better than Dr. David Cook and his wife, April, founders of the Lake Norman Community Health Clinic in Huntersville. The clinic began in 1998 when a local minister asked David if he could see patients in the back of a Huntersville Latino store “tienda” in the evenings once a month. David agreed. He began with approximately five patients and then it skyrocketed to 40. “Some nights I would be there until one in the morning,” recalls David, who practices with Novant Health Lakeside Family Physicians. “We did the best we could. April, who has an MBA from Meredith College, became involved, and the clinic moved to First Baptist Church in Huntersville in 2001. Six years later it moved

to its present location on Hunters Road in Huntersville. “Since 1998, we have taken care of 7,000 individuals and provided over 50,000 appointments to those individuals,” says April, who serves as the executive director of the clinic. “There are still many, many people out there without healthcare insurance. It’s not the stigma of the ones that’s just don’t want to buy it; this is the working poor.” In addition to David, other physicians volunteer their time, as both hospital systems (Carolinas Medical Center and Novant Health), partner with the clinic. “All of the Lakeside Physicians rotate their time through here,” says April. “A lot of specialists that we partner with believe in what we’re doing. They’ll agree to take so many patients per year to help us out.” April adds that what they provide does fall into the scope of a free clinic. For instance, they can’t treat allergies because of the expense. However, they

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Dr. David Cook and his wife, April, give the impoverished a healthy chance



are able to treat patients with chronic disease such as diabetes and hypertension, which they see a lot of. A mammogram bus comes to the center four times a year to screen women for breast cancer, and many patients are seen for depression. With that in mind, April was determined to design the clinic to look like a doctor’s office. Even though most everything in the lobby was donated, it’s clean and comfortable. Words such as "hope," "peace" and "wish" hang on the wall, giving patients an uplifting message, and there are even magazines to read. “I think it’s so important because when you are beat down and you don’t know how you’re going to provide that dinner meal or have gas to go to one of the three jobs you have, the presentation, even from the outside, I wanted it to look welcoming and warm because healing starts here,” says April pointing to her head. “If you think you’re going to a second rate facility or people look at you like you’re second rate, you’re not going to be as compliant. You’re not going to see the value in the caregiving.” One couple (both patients) live on Charlotte’s North Tryon Street and take two buses to get to the Huntersville clinic. She has gout, and the husband walks with a cane. “They walk from the bus station to come to this clinic because they’ve been to other places and said they weren’t treated with the kindness and respect they got there,” says April. “Now if they go through that much trouble for access to healthcare, we’re doing something I think wonderful here. It’s not David and me. It’s the people out there. It’s that staff and our volunteers. They are just incredible.” April admits that she never thought she would manage a healthcare clinic but that she wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. “I think one of the most rewarding things is knowing that we can make a difference and shine a light in someone’s dark world when all they need is someone to say, ‘I care about you,’ ” she says. “I know we’ve had a lot of light come in this place just by saying we care.”

LNC August 2016  
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