Hands of Hope doctor retires

Dr. Michael Podobnikar said he has enjoyed working in a free clinic in Stockbridge, because it enabled him to help people in need.

"I know how hard it is for these people [uninsured patients], and the emergency room is not an option, because there is no continuity of care there," said Podobnikar, 70. The Stockbridge resident retired recently from Hands of Hope Clinic, after nearly five years of service to the uninsured population in Henry County.

Hands of Hope Clinic, which opened in 2004, is a facility which provides medical care, and urgent dental care, at no cost, for the uninsured population of Henry County. It is located on the campus of the Henry Medical Center.

A reception in Podobnikar's honor was held at the clinic Monday, with about 30 people, including he clinic's Executive Director, Ruth Rucker, clinic board members, volunteers, and patients.

‘Dr. Podo,' as he's called, started volunteering when the clinic was housed at McDonough Presbyterian Church, according to Rucker.

The doctor quickly became a mainstay, covering clinic hours on Mondays and Thursdays, and serving as a resource to the clinic in general, reviewing test results, helping to arrange specialty consultations, and helping patients secure needed medications and medical supplies, Rucker said.

"He shared with the patients his many years of medical expertise," the executive director continued. "He was able to relate to them because he, himself, dealt with a chronic condition [multiple sclerosis] daily. He was very empathetic to their challenges."

Rucker said Podobnikar's departure "leaves a large void" at the clinic, which relies on volunteer professionals to serve uninsured residents in need of medical care. In 2006, the doctor became affiliated with Hands of Hope.

"I found a lot of my own patients didn't have insurance, and I started seeing them there," Podobnikar said. "I'm a surgeon. Surgeons like to make people better. I like finding people with problems and taking care of them."

Podobnikar attended Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, where he obtained a bachelor of science, and medical degrees. The doctor later operated a family practice in Stockbridge, before retiring from the practice in 2004. He acknowledged that his ongoing battle with multiple sclerosis, precipitated his retirement from the family practice.

Rucker lauded the doctor for his "selfless service," to patients at Hands of Hope.

"We're always recruiting doctors. No one can take [Podobnikar's] place, but we're always looking for medical professionals to volunteer their time."

For more information about Hands of Hope Clinic, call (770) 507-1344, or visit www.handsofhopeclinic.org.