The Oasis Free Clinics Board of Directors enacted six-year term limits for board members in 2015. At the time, six years seemed so far away to me. Yet here I am, the time has flown and only weeks remain. As I term off the Oasis Board and look back, I feel an overwhelming sense of honor and gratitude. It has been a great honor to serve on the Oasis Board; to volunteer for an organization I know is making a difference in our community. My years with Oasis have been filled with rich experiences and wonderful people. I have grown as a person thanks to Oasis and I hope to never lose sight of the lessons learned.

Oasis has been a leader and pillar of our community for many years. My first experience with Oasis was as a child, waiting for my father as he provided care for Oasis patients. During those evenings at Oasis, I saw many people who differed in many ways seek help at Oasis and observed how all of them were treated the same. I watched my dad as he would greet a patient in the waiting room and bring them into the exam room with him, a task I had seen him do so many times in his own office.

At Oasis, this task was completed with no deviation from the norm. My dad treated Oasis patients as if he was treating them in his own practice, complete with a warm greeting and a harmless joke. Those evenings at Oasis taught me how all people should always be treated, with dignity and respect. People from all walks of life can find themselves in need of some help from Oasis. You’d be surprised at just how diverse the patient panel is. Oasis believes in the right to good health care for all, which means regardless of what brought someone through the doors of Oasis, once there, they are treated with dignity and respect, they are listened to and provided with the best healthcare possible.

Throughout the pandemic the guiding light of Oasis has shone brighter than ever. Like a lighthouse marking the entrance to a harbor, Oasis helps us navigate to its calmer waters. There is no denying the pandemic has widened chasms and divided our nation. It has caused many of us to withdraw from one another and has exacerbated a culture of labeling. Oasis serves us as its name implies by offering a shelter from the storm.

At Oasis, all labels, judgments and preconceived notions are shed at the door.  As you become a patient of Oasis, your politics become irrelevant and your health becomes the primary focus. The only label that survives is that of “patient.” Oasis medical providers do not categorize their patients or lump them in with other groups of people, they do not judge them or patronize them, they listen to them and then provide the best healthcare they can. This is because Oasis staff, providers, volunteers and supporters understand to label or categorize is contrary to the mission of Oasis and contrary to good medical care.

Because all are treated equal at Oasis, all receive exceptional care. Oasis is not only an incredible place for its patients; it is an incredible place for any patient.  Most of us will someday find ourselves labeled as “patient.” When that time comes, we should all be so lucky as to find ourselves with a healthcare provider such as Oasis, a provider where all labels are shed at the door and patients are provided the best treatment available.

Thank you for six wonderful years Oasis.

Matthew Kanwit is the president of the board of directors at Oasis Free Clinics. Giving Voice is a weekly collaboration among four local non-profit service agencies to share information and stories about their work in the community. 

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