The healer

Dr. Runi Foster donates an afternoon a month to treating the pulmonary problems of low-income patients. It helps her breathe easier.


Published: Monday, January 11, 2010 at 3:14 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 11, 2010 at 3:14 p.m.

Dr. Runi Foster's patients each breathe a bit easier after seeing the pulmonary specialist for their asthma, chronic cough or other lung disease.

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Pulmonologist Dr. Runi Foster at her office in Gainesville.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer

Facts

Dr. Runi Foster, M.D.

AGE: 46
PERSONAL: Married to Craig Foster, no children
EDUCATION: - Medical College of Georgia, residency at Wake Forest, pulmonary training at University of Florida
- Pulmonary Physicians of Gainesville

But those who see Foster at ACORN Clinic in Brooker also have the relief of knowing that even though they may be stuck in a low-paying job without health insurance, they have access to a specialist to help them cope with their medical needs.

Foster spends one afternoon a month at the non-profit clinic. She says she's seen the number of patients seeking medical and dental assistance go up with the economic downturn.

ACORN (Alachua County Organization for Rural Needs) opened in 1974 to meet the medical needs of uninsured rural residents of Alachua, Bradford and Union counties. In 1984, ACORN Clinic moved into its current location in Brooker, 14 miles northeast of Gainesville.

Last year, the non-profit organization recorded 19,159 patient visits, most in the medical and dental clinics. More than 100 physicians, dentists, nurse practitioners and dental hygienists volunteer their time each year to provide $1.5 million in patient care. Many are affiliated with the University of Florida.

Foster has been seeing patients with pulmonary problems at ACORN since 1994. She is also part of a private four-physician specialist group, Pulmonary Physicians of Gainesville.

She describes her ACORN patients as "too young for Medicare but with no other health insurance."

With access to treatment, though, their quality of life can be dramatically improved.

"For me, there's the satisfaction of seeing my patients improve with some basic therapy."

Foster says the solution to a chronic condition like asthma can be as simple as showing someone how to correctly use an inhaler.

"They get better with the limited treatment I can offer, and that is why I continue to go out there," the physician says.

Instead of talking about the dedication she has shown to ACORN Clinic, Foster would rather take time to recruit other professionals to the cause.

"ACORN is an unbelievable facility," she says. "But we always need more help in every specialty, including pediatrics."

There is always a need, this willing volunteer explains, but the key is making the time to share your gifts with other North Central Florida residents.

"My partners have absolutely supported my work there," she says. "I would like to see more physicians give of their time."

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