Dr. Bert Gue will be remembered for many things. The founder of the Orangeburg-Calhoun Free Medical Clinic died unexpectedly on Nov. 30, the news coming as a Thanksgiving weekend shock to so many.
He was a man who loved and served his community as a whole and most especially the people in it. He proved that over a long career as a physician. He proved it as an active member of civic organizations.
Yet Dr. Bert Gue will be most remembered here for what he did in his “retirement” years. Not many people would end a professional medical practice of more than four decades only to take a big leap into operating a medical clinic to serve those below the poverty level who cannot get care any other way.
Gue had doubts about how the effort would come to fruition through funding and function, but he and his wife Jeanne, a nurse of three decades, found their records of service to the people of Orangeburg to be appreciated and recognized. So many deserve credit for stepping up to the plate. The Free Medical Clinic was born in 2009.
The money to get the clinic going came from a grant from the Duke Endowment. From there, the clinic has operated with a volunteer staff of physicians, nurses and social workers. It provides an array of services, including wellness exams, dental care, eye care, colonoscopy screenings, ear, nose and throat care, gynecological and dermatology. The clinic is funded by individual and business donations, and by grants.
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Dr. Gue served as medical director of the clinic for five years.
Some worried the effort would undercut medical care provided via Family Health Centers Inc. and the Regional Medical Center, but concerns evaporated amid a huge demand for care in a community where so many cannot afford it.
Five years after the clinic opened, Gue was recognized by then-Gov. Nikki Haley with the state’s highest honor, the Order of the Palmetto. At the ceremony, she said, “Establishing the Orangeburg-Calhoun Free Medical Clinic to provide medical care for the uninsured and indigent population demonstrates your dedication to the betterment of South Carolina, and your contributions will have a lasting impact on our state for years to come.”
Gue credited others, most importantly his wife, Jeanne, whose many roles has included the writer of grant applications for the clinic.
As noted by Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. in honoring the couple jointly in 2013: “The model of care the Gues are providing recognizes that people living in poverty and those uninsured are the same. For the past four years, the ‘dynamic duo’ has rendered tirelessly and unselfishly to those communities in need. Their mission has been to understand and serve the health and wellness needs of the medically uninsured in Orangeburg and Calhoun counties and to empower them to reach optimal health and be productive citizens.”
While the ideal would be to hope that the socioeconomics of Orangeburg, Calhoun and surrounding counties would make the services of The Orangeburg-Calhoun Free Medical Clinic unneeded going forward, reality is the care it provides is more needed than ever. Seeing it continue to provide that care will be a lasting tribute to Dr. Bert Gue and his life well lived in service to others.