HOUSTON – Nine years ago Dr. Victor Horn opened a simple free clinic with the goal that it offer quality care and be free to those is served.
Horn, and a staff of volunteers who now operate the clinic one Saturday a month at First Baptist Church of Houston, have been named the recipients of the Jefferson Award for Public Service. Horn and four others from across North Mississippi have been notified of the honor, with a finalist to be named this summer.
“I really feel unworthy of this award,” said Horn. “There are people who do far more around this state. I also want to point out our volunteers are the ones who make this thing work and this recognition honors them, too.”
The Jefferson Awards was formed in 1972 and is described as America’s highest honor for public service. The mission of the Jefferson Awards is to encourage and honor individuals for their achievements and contributions through community service.
The criteria is two fold:
• Outstanding personal commitment to people in need.
• Community impact that makes a measurable difference.
Horn, Stephen Tybor, Larry Ferguson, Dr. David Cole and Doyce Deas were selected by a panel of judges from a group of 123 nominees from across Mississippi.
Horn is a native of Houston and pointed out he was delivered by Dr. John D. Dyer at Houston Hospital more years ago than he wants to admit. He began his medical practice on July 13, 1983.
He and his wife Debbie, who is a nurse, started the free clinic in their office in 2005.
The clinic grew quickly and almost immediately moved to First Baptist.
“We’ve got retired nurses, pharmacists, active nurses, bookkeepers and just people who want to be involved in this ministry,” said Horn. “We open the doors on that special Saturday each month and serve people who have medical needs.”
Each free clinic Saturday starts with a prayer. Prospective clients are then screened by volunteers who help fill out the reams of forms all medical care requires. The patient then sees the doctor. Prescriptions are filled at the clinic pharmacy by more volunteers.
“It’s not about where you live, how much money you have, your situation or the extent of your medical need,” said Horn. “We work very hard to get you in our system and get you the medical care and medicine you need.”
Sadly not all who come to the clinic get help.
Horn said the clinic operates on a first-come, first-served basis and the shear volume of patients often dries up available medicine in just a few short hours.
“We’ve got one man who has been known to spend the night in his pickup outside our door so he can be first in line,” said Horn. “We do what we can – and we do a lot – but the need is great.”
The medicine usually runs out about noon. Horn and his volunteers stay until all paperwork is collected and filed.
Horn smiled as he talked about anonymous donors who have supported the free clinic for years. He said drug companies also donate medicine to the clinic at reduced or no cost.
Horn estimated the clinic has dispensed “several hundred thousand dollars worth of medicine,” in the nine years it has been open. He talked of one patient who gets a very rare and expensive medicine, free of charge.
Horn also pointed to a core group of clinic clerks who keep the medical paperwork, forms and prescriptions in good order.
“God has always supplied,” said Horn. “This is a ministry.”
“We pray each time we open the doors and then we practice our medicine,” said Horn. “I often tell our patients that if we heal your body and that allows you to live a good, healthy life and then you die and go to Hell, we have all missed the point of what we are trying to do here.”