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James L. Evans

Answering a call, following a vision

We hear the expression all the time, "That person must have a real calling." Our tendency is to associate the idea of "calling" with some sort of religious experience, such as being called to preach. But we also use the idea of calling to describe some particularly difficult vocation, such as social work. Whether religiously motivated, or inspired by human need, when someone hears and answers a call, it can sometimes make a big difference in our world.

I bring all this up because of a special person I have come to know — Leon Davis, M.D. This young doctor is a man with a vision, a calling. And it's an important calling, one that has life and death implications for hundreds of people.

Davis is a graduate of the medical school at Wayne State University in Detroit. He completed his residency at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago. In 1992, he moved to Montgomery to go into private practice. He opened an office and started seeing patients. What he saw, however, shocked him.

Davis spent part of his residency work in Ethiopia. The abject poverty and overwhelming need almost persuaded the young doctor to make the impoverished country his life's work.

But in the poor counties that surround Montgomery, Davis found Third World conditions, at least as far as medicine is concerned. He found glaring health needs, and many communities vastly underserved by medical facilities. In Lowndes County, for example, there are only two doctors in a county with more than 13,000 residents. There was need in Ethiopia, but there also was desperate need in Alabama.

In an effort to meet some of that need, Davis formed a nonprofit organization known as the Community Care Network. The goal of the network is to find ways to deliver medical services to people in underserved rural areas. Working with some of Alabama's largest corporations, Davis renovated a recreational vehicle into a fully equipped medical clinic on wheels.

Now on a weekly basis this "care-a-van" makes its way into some of Alabama's poorest counties. The Community Care Network holds health fairs, offers general medical examinations for diabetes, cholesterol, blood pressure, pregnancy, as well as breast and prostate cancer screenings.

We often hear that America has one of the finest health-care systems in the world. But that is only true if you have access to it, if you have insurance and a doctor or clinic convenient to where you live. If you don't have insurance, and there are only two doctors in your county, the health system you experience is not efficient or effective.

Leon Davis, M.D., dreams of changing that situation for many of the poor in Alabama. He's realistic enough to know that it will be difficult to recruit doctors to set up practice in impoverished rural Alabama. But he believes he can enlist a network of volunteer health-care providers who are willing to staff a fleet of "care-a-vans" that will take medical services where they now do not exist.

Sometimes a calling comes because of religious experience and sometimes it comes simply because the need is great and somebody has to do something. I don't know if Dr. Davis has his calling from God or simply a passion for the needy. What I do know is that Jesus said, "I was sick, and you took care of me."

Dr. Leon Davis is doing just that.

James L. Evans is pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church in Auburn. He can be reached at faithmatters@mindspring.com.

James L. Evans James L. Evans

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