Partial Excerpt from Chicago Tribune Article (Judith Graham, April 21, 2009)
As boys, they lived across the street from each other on the Near North Side. They’ve been buddies ever since. Now, these two older men are engaged in a demanding venture – providing free health care to the uninsured.
George Maltezos, 72, came up with the idea first. “Each of us felt we needed to do something after retirement,” said Maltezos, a former mental health and substance abuse professional. “And we both were fully aware of how many people don’t have health insurance.”
Charlie Martinez, 74, who worked as a nuclear medicine specialist, wasn’t initially inclined to go along. But then, at a medical school reunion, he heard an 87-year-old colleague talk about starting a free clinic and his interest was piqued. Soon, he embraced the project.
The longtime friends started the clinic in an area with significant need for health care services.
“It’s a little overwhelming, to be perfectly frank,” said Maltezos, who’s working harder in his retirement than he did when employed full time. “When you compare what we’re doing to the need that’s out there, we’re not even close to providing a significant level of care.”
Still, the work is a source of satisfaction to both founders.
Martinez said he knows what families are going through from his own experience. His parents, who had 11 kids, never had much money or any health insurance when he was growing up. The doctor remembers running into a steel fence when he was 15 years old and thinking “How are we going to pay for this?” as he was taken to the hospital.
To be able to give back now to others in need, he said, is “very rewarding because the people we’re helping have no place else to turn.”