Physician steps down as free clinic’s board president

By Katie Demeria

Dr. Gregory Byrd was a core founding member of the Shenandoah County Free Clinic. After 18 years, he is leaving the position of board president, though he will continue to volunteer with the clinic as a physician.

Pat Koch, who has served as the Board of Directors vice president for the past five years, will take over as president, according to Executive Director Pam Murphy.

Byrd was vital in creating the free clinic in the first place, Murphy said. He was one of a group created by Shenandoah Memorial Hospital that consisted of various community leaders to look at what needs were not being met in the county.

Byrd said one of the things that came out of that meeting was that roughly 15 percent of the people in the community were uninsured.

“And as a result many of them went without health care until they reached a crisis point, when they went into the emergency room,” he said.

It fell to Byrd, he said, to go about creating a nonprofit organization. The work involved in doing so, Murphy pointed out, is complex and took a great deal of time.

Byrd spent about five years researching free clinics in order to set the foundation for Shenandoah County’s clinic. Since then, he has been a key member on the board, offering clinical knowledge when necessary, and he acts as an important medical resource for patients, according to Murphy.

Byrd said the clinic is in good hands.

“I think it’s a really good time for me to step down because I’ve seen the clinic from its inception, through the first building, and I’ve been able to help out through the building of the new facility,” he said.

“The new building is going well, and the leadership on the current board is, I think, exceptionally talented,” he continued. “They’re extremely dedicated. So I just looked at the board and said, now is a good time for me step aside and let someone else run the show for a while.”

Koch said she believes the clinic’s leadership has allowed it to function so well. According to Koch, the clinic is able to turn a $1 donation into $7 or $8 of services, thanks to the way the clinic is run.

Volunteerism, she said, makes that especially possible, as well as grants from various organizations or pharmaceutical companies that allow the clinic to offer more to its patients.

“We’re here to help each other, and this is a way in which we can help each other,” Koch said of the volunteerism in the county.

Murphy said many patients are familiar with Byrd and his good medical reputation, and that those individuals do not have to worry they will not see him anymore — Byrd plans to continue volunteering his services to the clinic.

“I really enjoy working with the patients in general,” he said. “I think that clinic has a number of bright days ahead of it and I think it’s going to be there for quite a while to help the folks in this community who really need it.”

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com