March 25, 2019

Western Tidewater Free Clinic

Anthony J. DiStasio, II, MD, Board-certified Orthopaedic Surgeon, Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center – Suffolk

 

The patients who Dr. Anthony DiStasio treats during his volunteer hours at the Western Tidewater Free Clinic often work multiple jobs yet struggle to support their families. They cannot afford commercial health insurance and many do not qualify for employers’ health plans as part-time employees.

Many have suffered from painful and debilitating orthopaedic conditions for months, if not years, from carpal tunnel syndrome to arthritis in their hips or knees. 

“These are people who have truly slipped through the cracks,” Dr. DiStasio says. “They’re not looking for a handout. They’re simply looking for a little help to get back to their regular jobs and home life.” 

Dr. DiStasio volunteers several hours a month at the Suffolk-based clinic, which is open five days a week to serve uninsured and underinsured patients in Suffolk, Franklin, and Isle of Wight and Southampton counties. If patients need surgery, he also performs those for free on a second day.   

Western Tidewater offers non-emergency healthcare to patients ages 19 to 64 who live at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level ($50,200 for a family of four, for example). As the only free clinic in a 1,400-square-mile service area, the bustling operation is one of the fastest-growing clinics in the region. 

Clinic staff and volunteers provide medical, dental, vision, women’s health and mental health care; pharmacy consultation and assistance programs; and laboratory and diagnostic testing services. Patients also gain access to surgeries and specialists through clinical partnerships. 

Since opening in 2007, the clinic has cared for a diverse group of more than 5,300 patients during 150,000-plus visits. Staff focuses on primary care and continuous education on chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, both in individual appointments and group counseling. 

Not surprisingly, volunteers are critical. In fact, medical professionals from a wide variety of specialties have donated more than 125,000 hours to date, a nearly $4 million market value. 

Dr. DiStasio handles injuries and overuse or degenerative conditions in the shoulders, hips, knees, ankles and hands. He typically does five to six follow-up surgeries a month at Sentara Obici Hospital, such as carpal tunnel releases, knee and shoulder arthroscopies and fracture repairs. “It’s gratifying to be able to help so many people with fairly simple procedures,” he says. 

Most total joint replacement patients get a referral to a larger surgical program at Virginia Commonwealth University, he adds: “I see some very advanced pathology on our X-rays. You know a joint replacement is going to be absolutely life-changing.” 

Both medicine and community service have appealed to Dr. DiStasio since early childhood. As a football, rugby and track athlete, he suffered multiple injuries and was grateful when his orthopaedists recognized his eagerness to return to action. 

“They taught me how to take care of a whole person, not just a body part or problem,” he says. “I was also raised in a family that always emphasized giving back.” 

Dr. DiStasio, a graduate of Georgetown University School of Medicine, served for 13 years in the Navy before transitioning to private practice in 1995. Prior to joining SMOC, he completed a fellowship at the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore and worked as Director of the Orthopaedic Traumatology Division at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth. He has lived in Hampton Roads for 30 years.  

The Western Tidewater Free Clinic is a real team effort, Dr. DiStasio stresses, based on core mission values of excellence, unity of purpose, respect, diversity, integrity and stewardship of all resources. 

“Access to health care is a huge problem in our country, and the staff is all in for these patients,” he says. “I’m happy to be a small part of its impact.”

To learn more about volunteering, visit wtfreeclinic.org, call (757) 923-1060 or send email to info@wtfreeclinic.org.