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Doctor helps those without health insurance

Jefferson Award-winner Dr. Mayer Davidson
January 15, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
The Jefferson Awards honor and recognize those who give back to the community through volunteer work. This month's Jefferson Award winner is a local physician who has been tirelessly dedicated to helping those without access to medical care.Until she met Dr. Mayer Davidson, Laura Liguori, who suffered from an overactive thyroid, was desperate. No health insurance carrier would pick her up and her condition worsened.

"I was in a really bad place because I needed to get something called radioactive iodine to kill my thyroid gland or I could have had a heart attack," said Liguori.

The cost of her treatment was $50,000. After being shuffled around a lot, she ended up at the Venice Family Clinic.

"It's just been a real blessing having this place here where I could come," said Liguori.

"There's a tremendous need, a tremendous hole and so without clinics like this I don't know, there would be tremendous problems," said Dr. Davidson.

Davidson co-founded the clinic in 1970. He worked tirelessly to recruit physician volunteers and raise money.

"In the late sixties, there were people here who were artists, hippies etc. They didn't have any health insurance and they weren't earning a lot of money," said Davidson.

Under his leadership, it went from a part-time night clinic to a full-time seven location operation.

Today the Venice Family Clinic is the largest free clinic in the nation, providing primary health care for more than 24,000 low-income and uninsured people. And because of the economy, the need now is even greater.

"We're now seeing patients who did have insurance, has lost it, can't get insurance, have lost their jobs. And so I think we've increased by five or 10 percent in the last couple of years," said Davidson.

"He puts in the extra effort and you feel that he really cares while you're there," said Liguori.

She says Dr. Davidson's dedication is why he deserves the Jefferson Award, but he says the real reward is being able to help others.

"There's a need and we can fill it, and I feel good about being able to help fill it," said Davidson.