Byline: Cynthia T. Pegram
Oct. 28--Fifteen years ago, Helen Callahan was temporarily unemployed and without medical benefits coverage. She heard about the Free Clinic from her late sister, Robbie Bowling.
"I came with her one night, and asked, 'Could I see a doctor?' And I've been coming ever since."
On Friday, The Free Clinic of Central Virginia is culminating a series of small celebrations of its 20th anniversary with a sold-out gala event.
Since its founding in 1987, the Free Clinic has treated more than 16,000 patients, now at the rate of 3,000 to 4,000 people a year.
Through its pharmacy program, it has provided more than $15 million in free or low-cost prescription drugs. Savings are estimated at about $2 million a year for the past several years, said the clinic's executive director, Bob Barlow.
Today, a volunteer roster of more than 200 physicians, 60 dentists, and 25 pharmacists staffs the clinic. Volunteers include nurses, medical assistants, dental hygienists, dental technicians and pharmacy assistants.
Dr. Tom Eppes, who became the free clinic's first medical director in 1987, said it represents "the purest outreach that physicians have -- where patients readily identify that what's being extended to them, at no cost, is something to be really grateful for ... they know we're giving time and talent to them."
Eppes, who was followed …