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Dr. Donna Beegle dropped out, but eventually got out of poverty, and will deliver keynote speech at fundraiser

A local woman who grew up in poverty but eventually achieved a doctoral degree and international renown as an expert on "the culture of poverty" will give the keynote speech at an upcoming luncheon to raise funds for the Clackamas Volunteers in Medicine's (CVIM) Founders Clinic, a free medical clinic located in Oregon City, serving uninsured low-income adults in Clackamas County.

PMG PHOTO: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Clackamas Volunteers in Medicine Executive Director Martha Spiers speaks with Dr. Donna Beegle about the April 26 free-clinic fundraiser.Growing up in an area of outer Southeast Portland known as "felony flats," Dr. Donna Beegle dropped out of Marshall High School at 15 to get married and start a family. At 25, she found herself with two children, no husband, little education and few marketable job skills. In less than 10 years, she advanced in educational leadership and is now the president of Communication Across Barriers, a consulting firm dedicated to arming communities with tools to break the cycle of poverty. She remains a resident of Portland but spends most of her time on the road consulting and speaking.

"I work more outside of Oregon than in the state, but it's great to be back, and it's an honor to be speaking for CVIM," Beegle said. "There's no research that shows that if you have to pay for medical care, you'll value it more. Payment is actually a barrier to health care and education, two things that are necessary to get out of poverty."

Having heard Beegle's "hugely compelling message," CVIM Executive Director Martha Spiers hopes Beegle will inspire luncheon attendees to donate and get involved with the clinic. Spiers said the CVIM Founders Clinic will rely on the funding from the luncheon to pay for lab costs and medical supplies for providing care to the nearly 700 unique patients it serves annually. Since the Oregon Health Plan doesn't cover vision services for adults, the clinic started offering eye exams and prescription glasses in 2016. 

Volunteer doctors at the clinic most frequently diagnose diabetes and hypertension in patients who have often gone years with no health care and worsening chronic conditions, Spiers said, adding that the availability of no-cost medical care often prevents medical and financial catastrophe for families where parents are working several jobs without health insurance, preventing situations like homelessness and disability.

On its last lease cycle in a building slated for sale in the next several years, CVIM is looking towards the need to raise funds for a more permanent home. "We're looking at all of our options," Spiers said.

CVIM's seventh-annual benefit luncheon will take place from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Friday, April 26, at the Willamette Valley Country Club in Canby. Call the CVIM office at 503-722-4400 or visit clackamasvim.org for reservations or more information.

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