Growing up in a large Catholic family, Mary Gainer’s mother had always impressed upon her the idea that, “To whom much has been given, much will be expected.” Under this direction, she gravitated toward working with communities in need and after college she joined the Peace Corps in Honduras as a Health Extension Volunteer.
Her experience abroad was so moving that when she returned home two years later, Mary resolved to continue caring for those who had no one to turn to for help. She enrolled in medical school at Loyola in Chicago, where she graduated with a degree in family medicine and started her career working in a Federally Qualified Health Center on the west side of Chicago.
”A family doctor remains the most comprehensive way to care for communities with limited access to health services,” says Mary. “My work at PCC Salud Clinic in Chicago only solidified my commitment to find a way to continue working with the underserved.”
After graduation, Mary applied for loan repayment from the National Health Service Corps to work with the Preston Taylor Community Health Centers in Rowlesburg and Newburg, two clinics in rural West Virginia near the town where her husband was working. The financial help offered by NHSC allowed Mary the chance to fulfill her dream of working with underserved patients and be able to afford to pay back her medical school loans.
“The loan repayment program made my work here possible, and I plan to stay for a long time,” she says.
Mary sees an average of 20 patients per day and is the only physician in two counties that provides women’s health services such as screenings, mammograms, birth control consultation and prescription, and colposcopy to uninsured and underinsured women. Working with the state, Mary helped secure the necessary equipment to offer these critical treatment options; without them, women in the community would have to travel up to 50 miles for specialized care.
“Transportation is a barrier to care for many of the folks here,” says Mary. “There is a challenge to get care out here in a rural setting with no public transportation, and for many of my patients without gas money or time to travel. It is imperative that comprehensive, affordable care is an option for my patients; otherwise we see more and more costly emergency room visits or worse – patients going without screenings and treatment.”