Before making a nationwide media splash with her savior President Barack Obama at the Ft. Myers revival rally, Henrietta Hughes had garnered public attention before. In 2004, she was living with her unemployed son in Rochester, NY. Good-hearted private citizens offered them help then, too, to supplement the government checks (reprinted with permission from the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle and Cynthia Benjamin, social networking editor):
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (NY) – Wednesday, June 16, 2004
Author: DC, Cynthia Benjamin, Staff
Doctors and other medical staff volunteer time to treat patients
BY STAFF WRITER
Corey Hughes ‘ thyroid gland was bothering him – again. He needed medical attention, but had no money to get it. Hughes , 33, a computer programmer who lives in Rochester, has no steady job, no health insurance, no doctor.
So, when Dr. Carolyn Mok examined him June 2 at Mercy Outreach Center on Webster Avenue, not only did Hughes get necessary treatment for his thyroid condition, he also took comfort in something else: the service was free.
Mok, 51, a medical doctor who has a practice at 175 Lyell Ave., is among hundreds of medical professionals in Monroe County – no exact number is available – who give their expertise, pro bono, to people such as Hughes – people whom physicians commonly call the underserved, the working poor, the uninsured.
In all, medical professionals – physicians, dentists, radiologists, nurses and others – devote thousands of volunteer hours each year, treating people in need, charging nothing because the patients have little or nothing to pay.
In their volunteer work, medical professionals treat everything from toothaches to heart disease.
Some volunteer on the staffs at places that serve people in need, such as St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center, 417 South Ave., run by Sister Christine Wagner of the Sisters of St. Joseph.
Others see patients in their offices at no cost or at a reduced fee.
Art Streeter of the Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency says about one in 10 people in Monroe County does not have medical insurance, so volunteer medical professionals are vital.
“Most of the physicians look at this (volunteering) as part of what being a physician is,’’ says Nancy Adams, executive director of the Monroe County Medical Society, a group of more than 1,700 doctors from Monroe and six other counties.
“In the old days, it was just common practice (for physicians) to give back. That philosophy didn’t just go away because there are programs available to patients,’’ such as Medicaid and Family Health Plus insurance plans, Adams said.
Making ends meet
Hughes , who has not had a steady job for two years, recently took on temporary work for Superior Staffing Services, 26 Corporate Woods.
It’s tough, says the Monroe Community College graduate.
“I can’t even get a job at Wendy’s (after applying more than once),’’ he says, but “I feel good. I’m thankful to God.’’
Though Hughes wouldn’t reveal his salary, he says he doesn’t earn enough money in his temporary job to pay a doctor.
He helps take care of his mother, a breast cancer survivor who says even with Medicaid, she hasn’t seen a doctor in more than a year because she can’t afford to pay any percentage not covered by her insurance plan. Having Medicaid disqualifies her from pro bono services.
Yet she was thankful that Mok examined her son, who otherwise would not have received treatment.
“There isn’t many doctors that will see you if you don’t have insurance,’’ says Henrietta Hughes , 56. “There’s doctors, just out of the compassion and goodness of his heart, that will give his service or her service, and I’m very grateful to God.’’
CORRECTION Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (NY) – Wednesday, June 16, 2004 Author: DC, Cynthia Benjamin, Staff
Henrietta Hughes , 56, of Rochester has Medicare insurance. A story on Page 1F in the Our Towns section Wednesday described her health coverage inaccurately.
Since one of our commenters doesn’t understand the point of publishing this information, here’s the point:
The White House and the press are holding up this woman and her son as symbols of how the economic downturn has rendered people homeless and jobless.
Mrs. Hughes and her son have been jobless and receiving government assistance since at least 2004.
Yes, there is now a Henrietta Hughes website.
Via Dan Riehl, some more information:
Corey Hughes, who left his job in New York in early 2008, said he had been trying to take care of his mom. Both have searched for jobs and have come up empty, as have so many other Southwest Floridians. Henrietta said the family came here due to the expensive living costs in New York.
“So, I borrowed quite a bit of money to come down to Florida,” she explained.
And more: How many homes?