A physician who was a driving force behind the formation of a medical clinic providing free medical services to the poor has been named the Distinguished Citizen of the Year.
At its annual meeting, the Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce recognized Dr. John Derbyshire with the honor on Thursday night at Nash Community College’s Business and Industry Center.
Derbyshire was recognized for bringing the Tar River Mission Clinic to fruition.
The Tar River Mission Clinic is a nonprofit organization that seeks “to promote and improve the health of low income, uninsured adults by providing or arranging free health care services and programs,” its website states.
Dr. Gaylord Lehman announced the award before a sold-out crowd of more than 600 people.
“If you ask why tonight’s winner receives this award, I would answer in two parts,” Lehman said. “One is that he is an amazingly talented physician whose compassion for people is his hallmark. But that could be said for many physicians in our community. So probably the main reason for this award is the way he put that compassion to work for the poor and underprivileged and those who live on the underside of life. For him, that meant a strong desire to offer medical care for those uninsured and unable to afford it.”
Lehman said a group of people met in 2007 informally to discuss a “free clinic” in the community.
“In every group advocating a cause, there has to be someone who is willing to roll up his or her sleeves and tackle the nuts and bolts of putting the project together,” Lehman said. “Tonight’s honoree became the moving force behind a free clinic to help meet those needs. He recruited other doctors and enlisted other volunteers. He led the fund-raising. He sought out the building.”
The end result was the beginning of the Tar River Mission Clinic to provide care for the poor and uninsured, Lehman said.
“Since that time he has continually treated clinic patients and chaired the board that oversees clinic operation,” Lehman said.
The clinic has had nearly 6000 patient visits in nearly five years.
“The clinic has directly provided or arranged over $4 million dollars worth of free health care services, an indispensable supporter of the clinic is Nash Health Care Systems which provides clinic space and free laboratory and radiology services,” Lehman said. “But it was our recipient who helped give birth to the idea and stayed with it from conception to fulfillment. He answered the biblical challenge to do it for the least of these who are unable to afford their care.”
The Chamber also recognized two other people.
Herb Greenberg, the owner of WHIG-TV, was honored with the Woody Brown Award, which honors a dedicated individual to The Chamber’s work in the community.
Sharon Macon, a sales person with First Media Radio, was named 2012 Ambassador of the Year.