Gynecologist Sandy Yankow founded The Good Health Care Clinic a decade ago with the goal of making free medical care available to the thousands of uninsured Upper Keys residents.
Last week, Yankow, who serves as the clinic's medical director, announced his plan to step down in order to move with wife Nancy to Albuquerque, N.M. But he's leaving quite a legacy behind for the staff and board, who will continue to operate the clinic.
"It's bittersweet. New adventures. New place," Yankow, 76, said last week.
Since its early days in 2004, when the free clinic offered mainly gynecological services, it has expanded its offerings to a broad suite of medical services.
Using specialists from around the region who contribute their services, and assisted heavily by the Baptist Health Network of which Mariners Hospital is a part, the clinic tended to 637 patients in 2013.
Those patients made a total of 2,509 visits, said The Good Health Clinic Executive Director Jennifer Rickmann, all of them free.
These days Yankow no longer runs the clinic. Rickmann, supported by a board of directors, has that duty. But as its medical director, Yankow has the luxury of being able to facilitate appointments related to most specialties. Rheumatology, certain types of orthopedic care and endocrinology are notable exceptions, he said.
"We basically can get our hands on almost everything," Yankow said.
The free services are offered to anyone who is uninsured, lives and works in Monroe County and makes no more than twice the federal poverty level. This year the poverty line is $23,850 for a family of four.
In the Keys, medical care remains much needed. In 2011, the most recent year for which U.S. Census Bureau figures are available, 27.5 percent of Monroe County's under-65 population was uninsured.
Rickmann said that the rollout over the past six months of the Affordable Care Act insurance exchange has actually led to an increase in demand for The Good Health Clinic's services.
"It's just bringing to people's attention the need to get health insurance," she said.
Yankow said he plans to step down from the clinic by the end of May, when he has to be out of the home he rents. The Good Health Clinic is in the process of finding Yankow's replacement.
"We have several candidates that are really great," stated Rickmann. "There is going to be no interruption in service. We are really close to finding a new director."