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Gwinnett Community Clinic founder honored
Lesser awarded for community service

SNELLVILLE - Cardiologist Laurence "Lanny" Lesser has been given the 2008 Frist Humanitarian Physician Award by the Hospital Corporation of America.

As one of the co-founders of the Gwinnett Community Clinic, Lesser was selected from an applicant pool of more than 200 physicians.

"Lanny exemplifies selfless devotion to his patients and the community," Emory Eastside CEO Kim Ryan said. "Whether through directly caring for his patients, his leadership on Emory Eastside's Medical Executive Committee or his 20 years of community service, he's a living example of our hospital mission and the legacy of Dr. Thomas Frist Sr."

The award brings in a prize of $10,000, which goes to a charity of Lesser's choice. Naturally, he kept the prize home and donated it to the very charity he helped begin.

Frist, for whom the award was named, was a co-founder of the Hospital Corporation of America, and the humanitarian awards are given annually in recognition of the caring spirit and philanthropic work in which he took pride.

Lesser said he was humbled by the award, but added that it speaks to the work of all the doctors, nurses, pharmacists and community volunteers who continue to contribute and dedicate their time and resources to the Gwinnett Community Clinic, which only has two full-time employees and has been in existence since 1989.

"It's important to contribute to the community, especially if you're one of the people who still view it as a community," Lesser said. "I think it's part of the older tradition of medicine."

Lesser guessed that more than 100 volunteers per month donate their time there, where the goal is giving people access to health care who otherwise couldn't afford it.

Outside the clinic, Lesser also volunteers at Camp Big Heart, a summer camp for people with special health needs, and helps train emergency medical technicians at a local fire department.

He said he took pride in the Gwinnett Community Clinic's growth over the years because besides helping those less unfortunate, it also now assists in training future doctors from the Gwinnett-based Philadelphia Osteopathic School.

But he added that helping the less unfortunate was the impetus for starting it.

"The idea was we could do something to help these people before catastrophe struck," he said. "We knew these people needed continuity of care."