Do I feed my children or stop my agonizing toothache? Do I feed myself or buy myself glasses so I can see?
These are not questions anyone should have to ask themselves; ‘food or health’ should not be a choice anyone should have to make.
Yet, for more than 29 million Americans, it is.
Despite the introduction of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, an unsettling swathe of society – the working poor, the unemployed, the elderly, the ex-military – are unable to access health insurance, and as such have no access to the sort of basic care so many of us take for granted.
This is why it was only natural that in October 2014 I joined 50 of my Philips colleagues and volunteered for the King County Clinic, a four-day free clinic in Seattle run by a conglomerate of healthcare organizations, civic agencies, non-profits, private businesses and volunteers – and why in October 2015, now alongside 98 colleagues, I did it all again.
Both years, I was assigned to the Dental Clinic, escorting patients and directing them to the right services, while the rest of the Philips volunteers – and the 3800 other people donating their time –worked in roles ranging from interpreters and receptionists to cleaners and, of course, medical experts like doctors, dentists and nurses.
But though this list of what went in to the clinic is important, what matters far more is what came out of it.
In those four days, the clinic saw more than 4000 patients – 4000 people finally freed from balancing the impossible decision of surviving versus living with pain.
Like the teenager able to walk normally again after an embedded rock was removed from the bottom of his foot; the man saved from agonizing tooth pain by a root canal; the diabetic woman almost in tears because she’d been given a free pair of glasses and could now actually read.
Individually, they were small changes, perhaps even imperceptible acts of kindness; but together, they created an overwhelming display of humanity.
Seeing that happen was a huge privilege. As a company, Philips is constantly innovating and distributing healthcare, but we rarely get the chance to see it and touch it as strongly as at the Kings County Clinic. This was real healthcare, not diluted, not removed, but there, face to face with what really matters: making people’s lives better.
Sr. Director Sales & Market Support, Imaging Systems at Philips Healthcare Americas
Having joined Philips in 1988, Cathie has moved through a variety of finance and controller roles across Philips Electronic, Lighting and Healthcare divisions. She is currently Senior Director of Sales and Market Support in Imaging Systems, Philips Healthcare Americas. Outside work, she is a keen volunteer for everything from non-profit boards for youth sports to supporting local school and charity events. Cathie holds an MBA from Fordham University, Graduate School of Business Administration and also studied Finance at St. Thomas Aquinas College and the University at Albany.
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