Dr. Chisholm’s Sidelights
On his work with the Santee Sioux Reservation Tribal Clinic
“I found, perhaps, the place I was the most needed and useful, once again in social medicine on a salary. I returned to school, improved my computer skills, and took classes in Canadian and Indian history, rhetoric, political science and art. The tribe built a new clinic off the Indian boarding school grounds near the new casino and bought all the equipment and books I requested. The little, non-Indian hospital was made for a GP-surgeon and the staffs at both the Indian clinic and the hospital were outstanding. Those three and one-half years may have been my most useful contribution to society and the memories of those more recent years are still fixed solidly in my soul.”
On a military experience that reinforced his humanitarian priorities
“I took a MASH unit to the Alto Plano near Potosi, Bolivia in 1990 for several months in support of an engineering effort to lengthen a runway in the thin air on a mountain top for purposes not disclosed to me. With a great group of nurses and medics we cared for hundreds of Bolivian compesinos, operated on at least one hundred patients for a variety of problems in all the surgical specialties at about 11,00 feet, treated altitude sickness and delivered babies.”
On the establishment of the Open Door Clinic
“Still in excellent health, reminded by the state medical society that I could not see patients, make home calls without medical malpractice coverage (by state law), I saw the need for a clinic to serve the uninsured and found that malpractice insurance would cover me and all volunteers with some exceptions. With the assistance of sympathetic friends, I made a list of the things necessary for a primary clinic, searched for a location, found it with the help of the Presbyterian pastor and applied for funding from the Rutledge Charities, a foundation set up in the early 20th Century by one of the local lumber barons. After the approval of the Presbyterian Board and a generous donation from a wealthy childhood classmate, I began the legal work with a second cousin who had the template for the Eau Claire Free Clinic. I was unaware then that Eau Claire had a free clinic – now for 10 years. He assigned one of his junior partners to our board, which included a businessman, members of the Presbyterian Church, nurses from the local clinics, another internist, retired nurses and social workers.
In six months, we were seeing patients, and in April after four years, we will have seen 1,500 patients, comprising 5,200 visits and filled 8,400 prescriptions. The latter figure translates to $500,000. We have no problems finding volunteers for various positions—except doctors. We have a reliable cadre of about five providers, docs, PAs or NCs . We are open from 3:30 – 8 p.m. every Tuesday for patients between the ages of 19-64. The patients come from Chippewa County for the most part and from the surrounding counties as well.”