Grandmother finds help and hope at free clinic

“Are you all right, are you all right?” a group of concerned medical students asked as they took Joanne Walker’s blood pressure and vital signs. The 59-year-old responded calmly, “I’m fine.”

Actually, she wasn’t.

When Ms. Walker made an appointment at the EVMS HOPES Clinic, she didn’t have insurance and hadn’t been to the doctor in years. Her sister heard about the free clinic, staffed by EVMS students and faculty, and recommended she call. “I thought it might be time for a check-up,” Ms. Walker says. Little did she know that visit would change the rest of her life.

I couldn’t believe it when they told me I had extremely high blood pressure and that my blood sugar levels were through the roof,” she says. The average A1C blood sugar reading should be in the 5-6 range. Ms. Walker’s was just over 12.

She had hypertension and type 2 diabetes. “How did I not know this?” asks Ms. Walker, who cares for her three grandchildren full time. Through her experience as a nursing assistant, she understood the diagnosis to be a silent killer. “I felt like a walking time bomb. I might have died, and what would happen to my grandchildren?”

Fortunately, she doesn’t feel that way anymore. She monitors her blood-sugar levels and takes blood-pressure medication. She also exercises and sticks to a special diet.

She credits all of the HOPES Clinic staff, especially Sam Lee, MD Class of 2019, for saving her life. “He helped me through the entire process,” Ms. Walker says. After she left the clinic, she had a hard time getting some of the prescriptions filled, so she called them back. In less than an hour, Mr. Lee was by her side at the pharmacy. “He helped me get the right medications and find them for the lowest cost,” she says.

“I will be forever grateful. I had nowhere to turn, and they gave me hope.”

If you are interested in the EVMS HOPES Clinic, contact for more information.