December 6, 2010 | last updated May 30, 2012 12:05 am
HEALTH CARE HEROES 2010 -- VOLUNTEER

Dr. Theresa M. Caputo | Malta House of Care Mobile Medical Clinic

Theresa M. Caputo's "Aha!" moment took a while to come to fruition.

Her mother was diagnosed as a juvenile diabetic at age 8. Through the help of a wise and caring doctor, one who made house calls, she lived to age 68. That doctor inspired Caputo to go into medicine.

In 2006, while a resident at Saint Francis Hospital, Caputo saw a chance to volunteer at the Malta House of Care Mobile Medical Clinic a half-day each month. The clinic is a fully equipped custom medical vehicle that makes the most of its volunteer staff of over 70 physicians, nurses and lay people.

Caputo now volunteers a half-day twice a month on Wednesday, her day off, when the clinic comes to St. Peter's Church on Main Street in Hartford. Many of the patients only come when they know she'll be there; they consider her to be their primary care physician. She delivers the same caring, high quality medical services that her patients in her private practice receive.

Caputo enjoys her volunteer duties. "The patients are always grateful for the care we provide. We have a great group of volunteers, translators, technicians. Everyone."

As with most physicians, Caputo finds a dearth of free time for outside pursuits. Her quality time finds her curled up with counted cross stitch in her lap.

Caputo received her medical training at University of Massachusetts Medical School, with internship and residency at Saint Francis. She is in private practice in internal medicine with Manchester Medical Associates.

She also has received the Doctors' Day Award for Volunteers of Malta House in recognition of outstanding achievement for community service. It is the honor she cherishes.

While other programs are responding to acute problems only, Malta House of Care Medical Mobile Clinic's mandate is to provide the uninsured with consistent care. This includes preventative and diagnostic care with attention to chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, a range of cancers (breast, prostate lymphoma, pancreas), auto immune disorders (rheumatoid arthritis, lupus), musculo-skeletal conditions and asthma.

The mobile clinic also provides everyday care — colds, prescriptions, drug screening testing, radiological exams, informational material (to help a patient understand their condition and their treatment), and routine follow up. And the volunteers provide referrals to pro bono specialists. Bi-lingual and multilingual staff is always available for interpreting — ensuring culturally sensitive care that improves patient outcome.

Malta House estimates each dollar spent on the clinic saves $3-$7 that would be spent in a hospital, clinic or community health center. Part of that savings comes from an electronic health record system which enables the staff to track diagnoses, treatments and outcomes and gives doctors instantaneous access to a patient's history.

Their mission is to provide free basic primary care to the uninsured. The Mobile Clinic is available Monday through Thursday, on a fixed schedule, at four churches in Hartford: Sacred Heart, Cathedral of St. Joseph, St. Peter, and St. Augustine. A network of communication efforts at the homeless shelters, houses of worship and schools ensures that entry to these resources is available to those most in need.

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