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Clinic founder honored for promoting low-cost health care

SNELLVILLE — One of the founders of a local free clinic has been honored as among the best in Georgia.

Pam Kramer, a registered nurse who co-founded Gwinnett Community Clinic in Snellville in 1989, was given the Georgia Free Clinic Network’s 2010 Free Clinic Champion Award for her tireless efforts in a 20-year attempt to bring free health care to Gwinnett’s indigent population.

“It’s an honor to be able to get the award, especially since it was for all of Georgia,” said Kramer, the director of physician support and oncology services at Emory Eastside. “It was quite an honor.”

The award is meant to honor “a volunteer or staff member of a free or low-cost health clinic whose work on behalf of free clinics and the indigent has impacted their community.”

Kramer, who along with cardiologist Dr. Laurence Lesser and health care educator Madeline Estefan founded Gwinnett Community Clinic, helps run the center which provides physician care from volunteering doctors and nurses across the area.

She credits Lesser’s commitment with the success of the clinic over so many years.

“Before we ever did one thing, we had the doctors ready to participate, because Dr. Lesser went to them and said we needed their support,” Kramer said. “That’s really the reason why the clinic is still going strong, why we’re able to $5 million worth of care on a $130,000 budget.”

All those years ago, Kramer and Estefan visited a homeless shelter in Charleston, S.C. They spoke with the organizers and the needy at the shelter, and found that health care was the one most dire need.

Thus, the idea for Gwinnett Community Clinic was born.

Kramer said, the need is even greater than it was 20 years ago.

“It’s so much worse than it was 20 years ago when it first started,” she said, “because there’s so many more uninsured people.”

The clinic on Fountainhead Drive in Snellville sees patients on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from roughly 5:30 to 10 p.m., Kramer said. All of the doctors and nurses are there on their own time to help the needy.

For more information, call 770-985-1199.