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15 July 2009 

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Doctor Helps Homeless in Washington with Medical Care

15 July 2009

There was a time in America, decades ago, when many doctors visited patients at home to provide care. That is now rare. But in Washington, DC, there is a doctor who makes house calls for those who have no home. In this week's installment of our series, Making a Difference, we visit the streets with Dr. Anthony Martinez.

Dr. Anthony Martinez
Dr. Anthony Martinez
For 10 years, Dr. Anthony Martinez has made daily rounds to help the homeless in Washington. He stops to help Nathanial, who has a bad case of foot fungus.

"If you are on the streets for so many years, eventually it will catch up with you. You are going to get a cold, or get sick, or your muscles are going to get all cramped up," Nathanial said.

After he retired as an eye doctor in Washington, Dr. Martinez volunteered to help those less fortunate living on the streets. He does not tell them he is a doctor but is there to lend a hand.

Dr. Martinez says many homeless are addicted drugs and alcohol and have psychological problems. Medical care is readily available in Washington for those who want it. But most will not go to free clinics and medical vans, Dr. Martinez says, because they don't trust many doctors.  If they have serious problems, he encourages them to go to a clinic or hospital, and will even take them himself.

Some homeless people are reluctant to visit medical centers, Dr. Martinez make 'house calls' where they are
Some homeless people are reluctant to a visit medical centers, Dr. Martinez makes 'house calls' where they are
"And many people on the street prefer to just stay on the street," Dr. Martinez said. "It's very unusual that anybody would go to them."

The doctor says he cannot help them unless they want to help themselves. He encourages this man to take his medication to control high blood pressure and schizophrenia.

Many of the people Dr. Martinez meets have been homeless for years and he says they will not go to shelters where they cannot drink alcohol or take illegal drugs. Some have become friends, such as Pam, who has been homeless for more than 20 years.

"I'm at the point where I need to basically get this alcohol addiction under control," Pam states. "As long as I don't drink, I don't want drugs."

Dr. Martinez says he admires Pam for trying to fight her demons. He says the homeless have taught him valuable lessons.

"And I have learned so much from them, compassion, and I have run across people who are very intelligent," Dr. Martinez said. "They are inspirational to me."

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