Over forty years ago, Drs. Herman A. Meyersburg, known as "Arnold," and George Cohen were colleagues at Hillcrest Pediatric Center in Washington, D.C., where Arnold was a staff psychiatrist and George was an attending pediatrician. Committed to the community, they volunteered their time working with poor children and their families whose jobs provided no health insurance. For the people that Meyersburg and Cohen were trying to help, access to health care seemed just out of reach. Concerned about the lack of health care services available to these families, Arnold and George invited medical colleagues and community activists to a meeting at Arnold’s house to address the problem. From that meeting MobileMed was born.
Original sources of help in starting MobileMed included seed money from the Winer Foundation, doctors from the National Institutes of Health, nurses and medical supplies from the Montgomery Chapter of the Red Cross and legal expertise from attorney Benjamin Fassberg. The first MobileMed clinic was in the basement of the Methodist Church in Kensington. After only a few months, the clinic moved to the First Baptist Church, where it remained for more than thirty years.
It was Arnold's dream to have a mobile medical clinic but obtaining a vehicle was difficult. "We thought that if we had a clinic on wheels we could go anywhere we were needed." The alternative idea was for MobileMed "to go to places where local stakeholders would meet us halfway," and provide someone who would function as the clinic registrar, thus forming a collaborative partnership with the local community. Expanding first to Rockville and then to public housing facilities in Silver Spring, that “someone,” in most cases, turned out to be the resident managers.
Some forty years later, access to health care and the need for primary health care remain the two biggest problems for MobileMed patients. According to George, MobileMed faces the same challenges it has always faced: having enough resources, be it volunteers or funding, to staff and support the general operations of the clinics. Recent years have brought new challenges and opportunities. The rising cost of medications, the increasing numbers of immigrants, the nationally-mandated need for medical record portability, the increased need for specialty care…MobileMed’s service delivery plan and organizational structure reflects and responds to all of these issues.
With the help of its many supporters and friends, MobileMed continues to make high quality, affordable health care available to the residents of Montgomery County.