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arthritis clinic marks 40th year at earl k long medical center

By Dr. Herb Dyer

A few months after Earl K Long Medical Center opened on Airline Highway in Baton Rouge in 1968, three new members of the medical community—Drs. G. Tipton McKnight, Donn Bowers, and Herb Dyer—came together to initiate a weekly clinic for indigent Baton Rouge area citizens with arthritis or other related diseases.

Dr McKnight, head of EKLMC internal medicine, secured space, nurses, and resident physicians and interns to staff the clinic. Dr. Bowers, an internist interested in arthritis, and Dr. Dyer, who practiced at the Baton Rouge Clinic as the first fellowship-trained rheumatologist in Baton Rouge, attended the EKLMC Arthritis Clinic as teaching staff.

The local chapter of the Arthritis Foundation sent a volunteer to help at the clinic and worked to spread the word of the new medical services that had become available to area rheumatic disease patients. The residents, interns, and medical students interacted with the staff physicians to examine and treat the patients.

Drs. Jed Morris and Hector Mena attended the clinic, along with Dr. Dyer, who has continued to attend throughout the clinic’s existence.

As the clinic became busier, Dr. George Karam, now head of the EKLMC Internal Medicine Department, prevailed on the LSU Medical School Rheumatology Department to assume administration of the clinic and send its rheumatologists to the clinic on a rotating basis.

This arrangement continued until Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, and the LSU Rheumatology Department was scattered. Dr Luis R. Espinoza, remaining head of rheumatology, and six Baton Rouge Clinic rheumatologists rotated in staffing the clinic, which experienced serious overcrowding as did every thing else in Baton Rouge. Eventually, the New Orleans LSU Rheumatology Clinic was able to reopen, and the patient load diminished toward normal. Dr. Nirupa Patel, newly associated with LSU, now attends from LSU.

The clinic physicians at present treat about 30 patients weekly, most ably assisted by the EKLMC nursing staff, which is headed by Isabel Conner, R.N.

Baton Rouge sufferers from arthritis are fortunate to have been the beneficiaries of 40 years of harmonious cooperation among the physicians of EKLMC, LSU Rheumatology, and the rheumatologists of Baton Rouge Clinic.

EKL Arthritis Clinic

Drs. Herbert R. Dyer ( left to right) and Victoria Solderitch, EKLMC medical resident, examine Yolanda Palmer along with Dr. Stephen Pollet, chief of rheumatology at the Baton Rouge Clinic.