Walk into Dr. Charles Mann’s office and your attention is immediately drawn to the walls, covered with memorabilia from Bolivia.
The mementos, gained decades ago when Dr. Mann took medical missionary trips to the South American country, reflect the birth of his long-term mission of ensuring that low-income workers in the United States have access to health care.
Dr. Mann achieved that vision as one of the founding creators of Alliance Medical Ministry, a faith-led nonprofit in Wake County, North Carolina, that serves the working uninsured. The idea for Alliance was sparked in 1999 when Dr. Mann attended a physician continuing education conference in San Francisco.
“One of the speakers talked about why we need to begin creating church-based clinics,” Dr. Mann said. “That inspired me to come back to North Carolina and see what we could do here.”
Along with three other founding board members, Dr. Mann launched Alliance as an offshoot of Cary First United Methodist Church. The clinic opened its doors in January 2003 near WakeMed Hospital in Raleigh. Since then, it has served over 20,000 patients who otherwise would have lacked access to affordable care.
Creating the clinic
Dr. Mann’s desire was born out of his care for the least of these. Early in his career in medicine, he served in local homeless ministries and then began going on mission trips to South America.
“It seemed like we were always looking for an opportunity to reach out to the poor — that’s one of our mandates. It’s a part of our creed as Methodists,” he said.
Dr. Mann helped to create Alliance, in part, to practice a different type of medicine. He says that under modern American medicine, patients expect a pill or surgery to fix their problems when they should be fostering healthy habits in their daily lives.
“The principle behind Alliance is that medical care is about making people accountable for their own health,” Dr. Mann said. “You can’t depend on your doctor, hospital, or a pill to make you well. You’ve been given a finely tuned machine, and if it’s not maintained on a daily basis, it will break down.”
Dr. Mann served on Alliance’s board of directors until 2011. During that time, he also volunteered his skills as an ear, throat, and nose doctor.
Desires for the future
Dr. Mann would like to see Alliance’s model of health care — serving the whole person, physically, mentally, and spiritually — expanded to all of health care.
“Let people stop thinking that drugs are the answer,” he said. “Medicine was never designed for people to abuse their bodies and then expect medical science to rescue them. Medicine is an every day thing. It’s about health and lifestyle.”
A large part of that is the spiritual component, Dr. Mann said. “We have to be in touch with someone larger than us. We can’t believe that the whole world rotates around us.”
To learn more about the John William Pope Foundation’s support for humanitarian charities like Alliance Medical Ministry, click here.
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