In January 2004, Mercy Obeime delivered about $800,000 of donated medicine and supplies to her homeland, Nigeria. That was during her ”spare time“ as director of the Mercy Foundation, a non–profit healthcare organization she and several classmates from medical school started in 2001 to help fight HIV—AIDS in Nigeria, which she confides is “a big, silent problem, with lots more out there.”
During her normal “nine–to–five” life and well beyond, of course, like the deeply caring family physician she is, Obeime can be found at the Saint Francis Neighborhood Health Center at Garfield Park, where she has served as Medical Director since 1996. She was nominated a Local Legend by Representative Julia Carson.
In prior recognition of her dedication and commitment to the inner–city residents of Indianapolis, Obeime was chosen as a National Winner of the 2003 Spirit of Women Awards in the Healthcare category. She is committed to treating the whole person, regardless of ability to pay. “It is very important to treat people with compassion and dignity,” she says “to listen and find out what it is they want. Along with all the technology of American medicine, there is a need for faith and values, especially with older people.”
The Health Center is a family practice providing primary and preventive care to families who cannot afford health insurance and who are charged only what they can pay without compromising their financial integrity. During the past five years, the number of patients served has ballooned three times to 2,500, with almost 70 percent being uninsured.
“The Health Center has been a successful mission for Saint Francis,” says Obeime. “Saint Francis has made health care services more accessible to the Garfield Park community, especially to those individuals and families who don't have insurance coverage. Every day we're challenged to do more with limited resources, yet every day we see progress toward a healthier community.”
In addition to managing clinical operations, Obeime aggressively pursues the grants that keep the Center's doors open. She was instrumental in the Center's designation as a Hoosier Healthwise enrollment site, part of a state–funded health care insurance program for low-income families, pregnant women and children. With assistance from the Wishard Aesculapian Society for African American Pysicians, she also helped institute a health care tracking system for indigents in the Indianapolis area.
She connects resources with under–served populations, seeking funding and treatment for all. In collaboration with the Marion County Health Department, the Saint Francis Neighborhood Health Center at Garfield Park operates a B.A.B.E. (Beds and Britches, Etc.) Store, part of an incentive program to encourage mothers to engage in healthy behavior. By participating in a variety of activities—prenatal exams, practical parenting classes, smoking cessation courses, well–baby and well–child check–ups and immunizations—mothers earn B.A.B.E. vouchers that can be exchanged for diapers, baby, car seats and even baby furniture.
Whether at home in Indianapolis or back home in Nigeria, Obeime's strong commitment to public health enhances the quality of life for women, their children and families, and their communities.