In 2008, Dr. Michael Imburgia and a group of his colleagues approached their bosses at Baptist Health with a question. After working at the hospital for many years, they recognized a need from the community that they had not been able to address. They decided they wanted to provide free care to patients without insurance.
The doctors asked Imburgia’s partners if they could use the space at Baptist Health to begin providing free cardiovascular care, including checkups on heart issues and follow-ups when necessary. Their supervisors said yes — and with that, the Have A Heart Foundation was born.
Imburgia, his wife, Sandy, and a fellow doctor, Susan Dillon, began seeing patients one Saturday a month. They would get patients from nonprofit, federally qualified organizations in Louisville.
Now, nine years later, the doctors have opened their own clinic in downtown Louisville. The clinic opened in February, and its sole purpose is to continue the work they started at Baptist Health — providing care to the uninsured. But Dr. Imburgia says that this physical space will help them better serve the need. It’s located right on Broadway, near east- and west-bound bus stops.
“We weren’t able to see patients as many days as we would like, and we were in an area that didn’t serve the population that we were seeing,” Dr. Imburgia said. “And if you looked at the patients that were sent to us — if you put them on a map — this location was strategically where it would be easiest for them to access.”
Dr. Imburgia is a founding member of Have A Heart, and he’s passionate about the need that drives the mission. He says the drive behind the foundation is the disparities caused by the American health care system.
“There’s a large number of patients that need cardiovascular care and follow-up, but there’s not an easy access to it,” Dr. Imburgia said. “That’s true in most communities.”
To solve this problem, and to provide a service to those who don’t have insurance or are underinsured, the clinic is entirely volunteer run. Dr. Imburgia says that there are volunteers who help with every task of running the clinic, from scheduling to consulting.
“We have so many wonderful volunteers that really believe in what we’re doing. We need to be open here more days, so we’re trying to address that by getting more doctors and nurse-practitioners,” Dr. Imburgia said. “We’re only open one Saturday and one evening. If we could staff it another Saturday, we would have a clinic almost once a week.”
The clinic is currently booked through August. Dr. Imburgia says that other organizations perform similar services for indigent patients, or uninsured patients who are not eligible for health care coverage. But these organizations run into the same problem: they don’t have enough time or volunteers to meet the community’s need. The Have A Heart Foundation was built on recognized this issue, and has plans to continue providing more and more care.
Like Dr. Imburgia mentioned, the Have A Heart Foundation plans to find more doctors and nurses that will allow the clinic to open more days and see more patients. But the board of directors for the foundation have bigger goals for how they can make a greater impact across Louisville.
“One of our ultimate goals is to have a self-sustaining organization, where we see people with insurance and people without insurance,” Dr. Imburgia said. “We would take the revenue from the people with insurance to pay for the people that don’t have insurance.”
This post has been updated to clarify how the doctors pursued the space and who began the foundation.