If I was a new patient at Oasis Free Clinics, Rebecca Brown is just the person I would love to meet with first.  

Rebecca is warm, welcoming, very professional, and with a bit of a quiet humor. But the biggest thing that would stand out would be that she listened to me. She would sit, totally focused on me, listening. Hearing my words, but also hearing my story behind the words. 

Rebecca, the clinical director at Oasis, is the patient’s first medical professional they will meet. What a way to begin!  

I sat down with Rebecca to hear about her work, and my very first question to her was – how did you get here? What is the story of your journey to where you are now – and where did your passion come from? 

Rebecca grew up outside Burlington, Vermont. However, it was in Madison, Wisconsin, while working on her dissertation in Biological Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin she had one of life’s ah-ha moments. She realized that research was great, but she really liked teaching and wanted to be able to help others. So she switched gears at the University, enrolling in the Family Practice Physician Assistant program. She completed her PA degree in 2006 and moved to Maine two weeks later. 

That’s when her real passion began to emerge. She spent eight years working in small family practice clinics in Central Maine and then worked two years at an HIV clinic in Gardiner, Maine. When she and her family moved to Brunswick, she already had her eye on the Oasis Free Clinics. “I have a strong belief that everyone should have high quality healthcare, regardless of cost. Here was compassionate, evidence-based healthcare being delivered to those who couldn’t afford it.” She became a volunteer provider in 2017, and very soon after, became the Clinical Director.  

Rebecca is evidently a community person. Even her favorite way of travel is to go to one place and embed herself in the community long enough to see, hear and try to understand the culture.  

With her background in anthropology, Rebecca likes to approach medicine from a biological as well as social and environmental perspective. She especially enjoys working with patients with chronic disease issues, such as diabetes. 

“We now have incredible medical treatments for some chronic disease. But for the treatment of a chronic illness to be effective, the regimen has to work for the patient.  I get to know my patients, I know their names. If you’re working with a patient with diabetes, and if that patient is a lobsterman or a parent with children, for success you have to create a plan with them that works for them. A plan that not only improves their longevity but also their quality of life,” Rebecca told me. 

“We’re in this for the long haul. As in life, it might be three steps forward and two steps backward, or maybe sometimes it’s three steps backward and two steps forward. But we’re going to keep being here. We want to be here when that moment arrives that a patient commits to taking their meds that will save their life, or loses 40 pounds and can eliminate medications and their blood pressure normalizes. We want to be here when a patient can say they are sober for one year.” 

Rebecca has been at Oasis Free Clinics for almost two years. She’s proud of the growth in patient care that’s occurred. She worked through the incredibly complex process of implementing the electronic medical record. This allows for greater accuracy in medications and data collection. Oasis has also expanded and formalized the role of Bowdoin student volunteers. In addition, all University of New England Physician Assistant students had a   rotation at Oasis Free Clinics last year. “We hope to show as many new and upcoming providers the joys and challenges of working in a free clinic in the hope that they may incorporate this into their own practice,” says Rebecca. 

“Oasis Free Clinics is a pretty amazing place. We can’t always fix everything. Everyone, from staff to volunteers to patients, works hard to do what they can. It can be frustrating on a daily basis, but when I begin to tell others about this place and think about the big picture, I realize again that we are small but mighty.” 

“Oasis serves 16 communities, with a staff of just five people, but with an army of volunteers. We have a primary care practice open five days a week that allows us to know our patients, to be there with them through life’s ups and downs. We have a dental clinic for our patients. We help patients get over $1,000,000 worth of medications that they would not be able to afford otherwise. We do so much with so little” 

Rebecca talks about the clinics, the progress Oasis has made, the community support, but her most telling words are: 

“I love our patients.” 

For more information about Oasis, visit us at www.OasisFreeClinics.org or call us at (207) 721-9277.
Connie Jones is a volunteer at Oasis Free Clinics. 

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