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A free medical clinic opened in rural East Texas. Thousands poured in for help.

Texas ranks last among states in access to health care and has the highest rate of uninsured people in the country. Two longtime doctors in rural Henderson County created a homegrown safety net to fill the gap.

Doug Curran in his office at the East Texas Community Clinic in Athens last November. Curran helped open the safety-net clinic in 2020 after decades of practicing medicine in the rural area and seeing the fallout of Texas’ high uninsured rate. Credit: Blaine Young
Juanita Franklin at the Christian Life Center food pantry in Gun Barrel City, where she volunteers. Franklin lost her state Medicaid coverage in 2019 and is still uninsured. She now relies on the East Texas Community Clinic for regular care. Credit: Kim Krisberg
Ted Mettetal (left) and Doug Curran outside the East Texas Community Clinic’s Athens location. The friends first met in medical school and decided to open a clinic available to anyone, regardless of ability to pay. Credit: Blaine Young
Glen Robison, CEO of the East Texas Community Clinic, in his Athens office in November. Robison is in charge of securing the clinic’s long-term funding. Credit: Blaine Young
Doug Curran treats a patient at the East Texas Community Clinic’s original location in Gun Barrel City in November. The clinic has since moved into a bigger building down the road. Credit: Blaine Young
Colby Estrada schedules appointments at the clinic’s Gun Barrel City location. She and her parents are also patients there. Credit: Blaine Young

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