His skills don’t stop with retirement

By Steve Wideman | For The Compass | March 12, 2014

Retired physician uses his medical background to help the poor

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]NEENAH — Dr. Paul McAvoy knew the homeless, middle-aged woman he faced needed to see an oncologist as soon as possible.

Paul McAvoy (Steve Wideman | For The Compass)
Paul McAvoy (Steve Wideman | For The Compass)

With no job and no money to pay for medical care, the woman, displaying classic symptoms of cancer of the uterus, sought care at the St. Francis Community Free Clinic at Father Carr’s Place 2B in Oshkosh, where McAvoy, a retired internist, serves as a volunteer physician.

“I sent her to a gynecologist where she was diagnosed with cancer of the uterus. In the process of that evaluation he discovered she had cancer of the breast as well,” McAvoy said. With financial help from the medical community, the woman underwent surgery for both conditions.

“I thought, ‘Well. Gee whiz. We helped her,’” McAvoy said. “It’s not that we did anything spectacular for her. We were just there to help her.  She came back and thanked me, which was very nice of her.”

The case is one reason McAvoy, 71, continues to voluntarily offer his skills as a physician four years after he retired from private practice.

“I’ve always enjoyed and received fulfillment being a physician,” McAvoy said.

After earning a degree from Stritch School of Medicine at Loyola University in Chicago and a degree in internal medicine from the University of Michigan, McAvoy and his wife, Maureen, moved to Neenah in 1975.

The couple joined St. Margaret Mary Parish, where McAvoy became involved in various church organizations and projects through the years.

The McAvoys are familiar faces at the parish where Paul, a member of the Knight of Columbus, participates in perpetual adoration and continues to be involved in activities of the Parish Life Committee.

“I go to Mass regularly. I sing and sing loud,” he said.

Four years ago, McAvoy and his wife traveled by bus to Kentucky with a contingent of volunteers from St. Margaret Mary to help the Christian Appalachian Project in repairing homes of poor people in the poverty stricken region.

“I feel I’ve been blessed throughout my life to have a good life. I was fortunate enough to go to medical college and have a profession. I feel obligated to give back to the less fortunate in the community,” McAvoy said.

Currently, the McAvoys volunteer with other parish members at the Warming Shelter of the Fox Valley to cook and serve meals to the homeless.

“I feel helping people deepens my faith,” McAvoy said.

While working full time as an internist, McAvoy had volunteered at the Fox Valley Community free clinic for eight years.

Volunteering is in the couple’s blood. Maureen McAvoy offers her time as a volunteer at the Tri-County Dental Clinic that serves people in need, and she delivers meals for the Meals On Wheels program.

McAvoy formally retired from medical practice in 2010, but retirement didn’t sit well with him.

“I was seeking to use my background knowledge and skills in a beneficial way,” McAvoy said. “I knew Father Carr’s had this free medical clinic so I inquired if they needed any physicians. I was lucky enough to apply when they had an opening and they were delighted to have me,” McAvoy said. “The St. Francis clinic is a Catholic-based clinic operating under the principles of St. Francis and the Catholic Church to help the poor and those less advantaged than us.”

The clinic, a general medical facility with very few emergency cases, is open two days a week and one night.

“I think we provide a nice little niche for folks that just can’t afford health care. We don’t even ask if they can afford it. If someone comes in and wants to be seen we see them,” McAvoy said. “But as you talk to people they tell you their stories of being unemployed, not having any money or not having health insurance. They are having problems at a time medical care costs can be astronomical.”

McAvoy said he and other doctors do what they can to suggest where people might find work.

“We’ll do some fumbling work at job counseling and see what kind of job we can get them in,” he said.

Recently, McAvoy said, the clinic has worked to facilitate signing people up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

“I hope that works out for them,” McAvoy said.

In a typical five-hour shift, McAvoy and other doctors will see between 20 and 30 patients.

“We see a lot of chronic illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which we try to help treat. We also see patients with a lot of emotional problems, anxiety and depression,” McAvoy said.

McAvoy said his spirits are constantly buoyed by help offered by the community and medical industry.

“The clinic is run through volunteer contributions of time and money. We are very fortunate to get a lot of free samples from pharmaceutical companies,” McAvoy said. “If we don’t have a drug we write a prescription. Wal-Mart, in particular, is very good about helping out with prescriptions. They offer a list of generic drugs to patients for $4 a month. Most of our patients can afford $4 a month.”

Fellow physicians are usually willing to answer calls for help at the free clinic.

“If I give them a call and ask them to see a patient for a particular problem they are pretty good about doing it,” he said.

McAvoy said he continues to appreciate the opportunity to help people in need “and to see them get better under my suggestions and guidance.”

“It gives you a warm feeling having done something to help people less fortunate,” he said.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_message color=”alert-info”]Your Catholic Neighbor

Name: Paul McAvoy

Parish: St. Margaret Mary, Neenah

Age: 71

Favorite saint: Patrick

Words to live by: “Love one another as I have loved you.”[/vc_message][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Related Posts

Scroll to Top