We are pleased to welcome Rick Donlon, MD, from Memphis, TN as our founding Medical Director and help launch NeighborHealth. Dr. Donlon was instrumental in the start-up of two Christian community health centers. We are privileged to benefit from Dr. Donlon’s extensive experience in leading successful community health centers, including founding the largest provider primary care in Memphis. He is consulting with us on an interim basis, and is committed to securing staff for our long-term viability. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: What attracted you to take on the role of Medical Director for NHC?
A: I learned about the exciting plans for NeighborHealth in late 2016, when a colleague and I visited the Duke Divinity School. Over the last two decades, I’ve had the good fortune of being involved in the startup phase for a number of Christian community health centers–both in my hometown of Memphis and in other cities. Recently, my work in Memphis has changed, so I have the capacity to serve as NeighborHealth’s launching medical director. I’m grateful that Sue Ellen Thompson and her board asked me to be part of the work here.
Q: You have been instrumental in starting multiple faith-based health centers. What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned that will help in launching NeighborHealth?
A: The two crucial steps are establishing a Christian biblical vision for serving our less-fortunate neighbors and recruiting faith-motivated, risk-taking medical providers and support staff. Everything else flows from who we are and why we do what we do.
Q: You’ve had a busy schedule meeting with key partners and leaders in the healthcare community. What has the response been to supporting this new health center?
A: It’s been uniformly positive. I’ve been truly impressed with the great work that’s going on in the Raleigh community, including within the hospital systems, local government, the community-based service providers, and the many associated non-profit ministries. We hope that NeighborHealth can quickly become an integral part of the growing safety net that serves our under-resourced neighbors.
Q: Why do you think Raleigh is ripe for a new faith-based community health center?
A: There’s so much good happening in Raleigh already, through the work of the Wake County Human Services Department, Advance Community Health, Alliance Medical Ministry, Open Door Clinic, the crisis pregnancy centers, behavioral health providers, and many others. Having said that, the need for affordable community-based primary healthcare has grown in a way that’s outstripped present resources. NeighborHealth will be part of meeting this growing need.
Q: You have dedicated your career to serving the poor and sharing God’s word; what drives you?
A: A belief in the triune God who shows how great He is by loving justice and righteousness. His Kingdom is founded on those two principles. We live in an imperfect world where many resources, including healthcare, are not divided equitably. That’s not just or right.
Q: You have a large family–we’d like to get to know you! Can you share about your family and children back in Memphis?
A: I do; seven children, three boys and four girls, ranging from 23 to 7. The two oldest are law students, two are college freshmen, one is graduating from high school in a few weeks, and two are still in grade school. We live in one of the low income neighborhoods where we started a health center–and we love it. My wife, by the way, is heroic!
Read more about Dr. Donlon in this interview in Faith and Leadership, published in Leadership Education at Duke University.