Bicycling doctor makes house calls for uninsured

I was kind of innocent back in 1998. A new doctor fresh out of school. I didn’t know about our doctor suicide crisis. I didn’t know about the widespread human right violations in medical education. I didn’t know about assembly-line medicine or big-box clinics.

 I just knew I wanted to help people. And after my first job I knew I couldn’t do that in 7-minute office visits.

So I quit to open an ideal medical clinic in my house—even though I didn’t have much money to do it. I lived simply. I shopped at Goodwill. So I could have the opportunity to care for people who needed me most—regardless of ability to pay. Twenty years later I’ve never turned anyone away for lack of money in my clinic. 

Today I found this old TV news clip. It’s somewhat embarrassing, sort of hilarious and totally old school. Enjoy!

Reporter: Something old fashioned is happening in this South Eugene converted garage—medicine the way it used to be.

Dr. Wible: I wanted to put the emotion and the love and the care back into health.

Reporter: Dr. Pamela Wible opened her Tender Loving Clinic December 5th after working in a number of different practices.

Patient: I’m looking for more of a relationship with my physician . . .

Reporter: And Wible wants to give more that’s why she treats lower income people and those without insurance and those who only speak Spanish. She even makes house calls on two wheels.

Dr. Wible: Here’s my bike [squeaking my pink lamb horn—twice OMG 🙂 ]

Reporter: Her unusual approach is also evident inside the clinic she helped build. Towel bars made from limbs found in her backyard and fresh juice for every patient.

Patient: Yeah, I think it’s really important to have our healthcare needs be more centered towards the person.

Reporter: Wible charges a sliding scale fee with 20% off for anyone who rides a bike to their appointment.

Dr. Wible: In here we have the exam room . . .

Reporter: She bought her equipment used and offers just about every kind of service except surgery and delivering babies and most importantly she says she gives what’s missing most in modern medicine—emotional attachment to the patient.

Dr. Wible: That’s like a huge part of healing—is just to be present and have empathy for someone.

Reporter: Wible hopes her tiny clinic will have huge promise for people in search of a different kind of doctor.

So here’s a poster I made about my first ideal medical clinic back in 1998 🙂

I then launched a second ideal clinic 7 years later. Here’s a newspaper clipping announcing my town hall meetings.

My first ideal clinic led to a second ideal clinic. This time I held 9 town hall meetings and collected 100 pages of testimony. I adopted 90% of what my community wanted and in 2005 we opened the first community-designed ideal medical clinic—now replicated across the USA and even as far away as New Zealand!  Read Journal of Family Practice article celebrating our clinic.

 

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43 comments on “Bicycling doctor makes house calls for uninsured
  1. Mark Ibsen MD says:

    I love Dr Pamela. She has always had the pure Hipppcratic approach.

  2. Phil says:

    Very nice video.

    34 years ago, I spent some time with a family medicine physician in the Ft. Lauderdale area- Dr. Anderson. After residency, he worked for 3 years in a large clinic, saved his money, then bought a house trailer and some testing equipment. He set up a circuit in the Ft. Lauderdale area. The night before he held his clinic in a certain location, he towed the trailer to a designated spot and dropped it off (this let the locals know that the clinic would be open the next day). Dr. Anderson’s circuit included trailer parks, retirement villages and low-income housing areas. He had spirometry testing and some labs testing available. He also had amassed a stockpile of drug samples for patients who could not afford them.

  3. David Gorn says:

    Aww.

    That’s not embarrassing at all, I thought I was going to see bead curtains, macrame holders around IV bottles, Indian bedspreads on the exam table.

    Living what you feel, rather than complaining about it — that’s so different, such a testament to what you’re trying to do now, it’s powerful.

  4. Yul says:

    Thanks for sending me this delightful clip. I think you’re still relatively young and innocent, but that intriguing naivete has been pounded out of you over the years.

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      I feel sad about that. Why do we need to create a world that pounds the innocence, hope, dreams out of young people? I wrote about this in the introduction of Physician Suicide Letters:

      Despite it all, I remain an optimist. Medical school knocked me to my knees. I haven’t been the same since. Even though I still have a sparkle in my eyes and joy in my heart, a piece of me is missing. I can never get it back. I’ve tried. My innocence is gone.

      • Geoffrey says:

        Dear Pamela, I loved the clip! Though the innocence may be gone, I would surmise that the love in your heart has only deepened because of the pain and suffering you have seen and felt, and that is a good thing, because although naivete has its place, it’s important not to be blind to the pain and suffering that exists. One need not dwell in the pain, but let it be a motivation for deeper compassion and positive action. From what I have seen of your posts, you have acted admirably in this regard.
        Thanks and Blessings!
        Geoffrey

  5. Sinead says:

    Ah, that’s a lovely video, and not at all out of date, fashion and pink lamb horn included! You’re an inspiration!

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Thank you for your sweet words. I do think the pink horn may be coming back in style.

      • Sinead says:

        Keep up the good fight, Pamela.

        Greetings from a medical student in Limerick city, Ireland, who one day wants to have her own ideal clinic, bike and all.

  6. Donald Turken, MD says:

    impressive young lady professional medical doctor. you were bound inevitably to lose that innocence. but not completely. you do have to grow up; you do not have to finish growing up. play every day; go to NeverLand, but come back to reality, a good thing and where most of us are on the same plane. sort of.

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Makes me cry to think about losing so much my idealism. I just feel so crushed by the pain that my profession has caused my colleagues who have taken their lives—and the ones that live every day lives of silent desperation. The vacant eyes. The pain is so evident to me. I’ve felt it myself. My own occupationally-induced despair. Of course, as an empath I pick up these things and it can be overwhelming.

      • Donald Turken, MD says:

        inevitable, you are not a child, you are an adult. ok, somewhere in-between, and that is good. what makes you happy. how do you handle stress. you must deal with reality despite the alternative realities we all have. keep track of real reality. you have control of you and little beyond yourself. so do not waste the energy beyond what you can do. however, as mentor guide teacher you can and you do help. and off-time you are …. so live love laugh, do what you can then more and know you strive to learn every day and to teach every day but as the adage is-you can lead a horse to water but not make him/her drink but you can drown him/her, so stop at the trough. explore. go walkabout. use your senses. cheers.

        • Pamela Wible MD says:

          Ah don’t take life too seriously and go out in nature. Yes, will go walk in the woods. Keep myself grounded.

          • Donald Turken, MD says:

            good on ya lassie, remember rule number 1 in the house of god in time of a code blue take your own pulse first, stop-breathe-think-act, you must be able to function. and remember rule number 1 EMS-scene safety first, do not rush in and make a bad situation worse. when you are out and about, use your senses, what are your sensual intakes? look around and listen and smell, trees flowers leaves rustling, birds chirping, squirrels raccoons bunnies, maybe coyote or fox? other animals are sentient while most human creatures are not. you can learn. teach.

  7. John says:

    Dear Dr. Wible,

    Thanks for sharing this. I sent the related pdf to my now former PCP, who has a fellowship to work with the Latino community in our area and in Flint, MI. Your approach is a beautiful initiative.

    Best,
    John Thiels

  8. Pamela, your lost “innocence” has evolved into something far more important for today: a deep resolve to be a real catalyst in an area where it’s mind-boggling we even have such a problem. So glad to have witnessed the birth of your mission back in Eugene! Maintain the (constructive) rage… and thank you for honoring a mutual friend who I felt compelled to honor in FastCompany: https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.fastcompany.com/918567/work-life-dr-douglas-meyer-patient-evangelist

  9. Charley says:

    WHY OH WHY would you be embarrassed about this???????? You’re right, young, innocent, naive, living a dream and doing what, even then, you were destined to do. SO very proud of you !!!! Charley

  10. V says:

    Nothing embarrassing about it. Sophistication is overrated.

  11. Dr. Crystal says:

    Love it….still working out of my garage office with my good will rags…..and still loving it thirty years later……thank you so much for inspiring the world to come from “REAL”.

  12. Tom says:

    Dear Pamela
    This is so very very cool.
    You are so very very cool.
    Tom
    Ps: it’s neither hilarious nor embarrassing.
    I love it.
    Jesus.

  13. Dolores says:

    There is nothing embarrassing here. It was a wonderful idea back in the day and remains so!

  14. Trace says:

    You are ever an inspiration to me! This video made me cry it’s so beautiful! Thank you for sharing!

  15. James Kenyon says:

    Dr. Wible’s work in my opinion is some of the most important work of all in the world of medicine and those of us who know her can attest to this. Pamela’s work with trying to understand Doctors who commit suicide and her work in trying to make us public aware of this, is precious. Pamela’s desire to help us humans understand our humanity, is precious. We need more doctors who come to realize that they are a special cast of humanity and are they themselves, precious.

  16. Ozgur says:

    Pamela,
    I hope you are not feeling shame or actual embarrassment. What you have done in this medical culture is nothing short of amazing! Your patients are so fortunate to have you, and I am proud to know you and call you my friend.
    In fact, I think my mullet was very similar to your patient’s. 🙂
    With much love and respect!
    -Ozgur

  17. Mary says:

    Hi.

    Your comment about Goodwill rags made me think of all the great things at Goodwill*, and I bet you look great.

    * One man’s “junk” is another one’s treasure…..

    Thank you for all you have done for people in need who do not have the means.

    I am a patient, not a health care professional (HCP).

    Still, my input is

    a. There needs to be “811” or an alternative to 911. Too urgent for Urgent Care, but Emergency Room (ER) should be saved for trauma (car accidents….).

    b. Psychiatric situations need separation (if there is no medical condition to treat) from the usual medical ER. Like I say, I am not an HCP, but believe the medical side would appreciate this, too.

    c. More virtual, concierge, video/audioconferencing for providers and patients.

    d. Simplify the provider – pharmacy method for prescribers to be able to take care of their patient needs easier, more conveniently, and faster. (Case in Point: I have watched extremely busy HCPs spend near a half hour going through the automated recordings, etc., to merely call in an anti-biotic. It should just be a checkbox or something.

    Anyway, I do not know if you were asking for input. I do not think you were, but these things are noticeably and constantly being less efficient instead of empowering HCPs to treat their patients.

    Thank you.

  18. Melanie Lee MD says:

    This video is so lovely. You are very appealing and wonderful with your manner and attitude. You are who is “the Doctor that everyone dreams about.” You are the dream Doctor who graces everyone that you treat, who has any contact with you, whether in person or any contact. That applies to me also, I feel your grace from your emails. You are definitely on the pathway that raises the consciousness of the world. Thank you for that.

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Oh Melanie thank you SO much. It has at times been a very lonely ride. Especially once I understood the suicide crisis among doctors and the level of despair, secrecy & censorship. Have you seen the film trailer for the upcoming documentary Do No Harm. I feel like I really have a handle on what’s wrong with health care now. Still have my ideal clinic open too! 🙂

  19. Dawn says:

    You inspire me! Just a few more months till my clinic opens! I am so excited! Can’t wait to attend your retreat!

  20. AC says:

    I loved this! You were a visionary even then. I loved the 20% discount to people who came to you on a bike – that’s so powerful, exercise and health are so linked. And I loved your humanity in every word and evey item in your practice.
    Thank you for sharing!

  21. Greta Shames-Dawson says:

    Dearest Pamela,
    I have been “knowing” you for 2? years now and am consistently moved by your grace, courage, heart….
    Your video further elucidates your preciousness.
    Viewing/reading about you and your Dad when you were a little girl compels me to say that I know he would be/is so respecting and proud of you.
    I thank you from my heart – no, my very soul – for being you.
    With love & care

  22. I had a doctor like you in Montana in the 90’s, he made house calls too. Such a wonderful man and so caring. I can’t find one now, they’re all gone and it’s hard. I lost a kidney to cancer in 2016 and no one seems to care to track the function of the remaining one. We need more like you and I hope you never quit. You deserve so much love for the love and support you give others. Bless your heart, you’re a one in a million.

  23. Dianna Harris says:

    Years ago I worked private duty and took care of a gentleman who’s father was a doctor. He showed me his bag which had all his instruments, recipes for medicine he made himself. He had brief notes about which ones worked best and notes on things he treated. Wonderful history about his house calls and his relationship with his patients. There was a picture of him standing by his horse and buggy. Reminded me why we do what we do. Dr. Wible you remind me of this doctor.

  24. Spyz says:

    How wonderfully therapeutic it would be if all our doctors had such clinics. Especially in the fields of Pain Management and Mental Health, two fields with extraordinary vulnerable people. Today’s doctors are making sick oeople even sicker simply for being emotionally absent and treating us in a one size fits all assembly line fashion. That also deepens the Opioid Crisis. When doctors would empathize and treat individually, addictions were down, patient suicides disguised as overdoses were rare, and more intractable pain patients were even working productive members of society! So as my glassy eyed doctor denies my insurance because he’s in it for the money, not a labor of love, I roll up my sleeve and prepare for another day of endless shots of heroin. One every four hours the way medicine was intended to take; not a dangerous extended release and four measly breakthrough to keep an aging society in the throes of hopelessness and addiction, a contagion being passed on by our doctors…… bring on the bikes and pink, lamb horns! And God please let them bring a handshake, a hug and a smile.

  25. Janine Hunt-Jackson says:

    I LOVED your video from 1998! I’m also awed by your commitment to patients as well as your support of, and information about, the oppression of doctors and the suicide attempts and “successes.” I have expanded my awareness of what it’s like to be a doctor these days and it is due to you.

  26. Oh my gosh what a lovely video! You’re truly an inspiration.

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