The Citizen Spotlight is a project I started with the Oklahoma Gazette. In each issue, we highlight a person in our community who stands out for their leadership, kindness, and good deeds. Read it on the Oklahoma Gazette website here.
Dr. Boyd Shook – Fundación Manos Juntas
You don’t often see an 88-year-old doctor still actively working in a clinical setting, but at Manos Juntas, you’ll find Dr. Boyd Shook serving hundreds of patients each week at no cost.
A Navy veteran and long-time physician, Shook has spent decades dedicating his medical skills and knowledge to those who need it most. The journey began in 1995 when his daughter needed help raising attendance at the Methodist church where she was preaching. Dr. Shook opened Manos Juntas inside the church to serve the community and help with any needed health care. The small no-cost clinic opened its doors with the mission to serve a diverse group of patients from all ethnic, economic and cultural backgrounds.
“We thought it’d be, you know, half a dozen patients each week,” Shook said, “But that didn’t turn out to be the exact estimate.”
In fact, the need for affordable, accessible health care in the community has only continued to grow.
“We’ve received 100 and more,” Shook said. “The maximum was 200 saw one Saturday. And we’re fortunate that we’ve had extremely high quality and large numbers of people helping us, people who want to work there. That’s why we’re able to see so many patients. And we just see tons of patients in need of quality care.”
The original clinic relocated to another church after the building’s structural issues rendered it unsafe, but in 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic forced Shook to move the clinic to its own space at 1145 W. I-240 Service Road. He is able to serve more patients at the new location but now with the added burden of increased costs to keep the facility afloat.
Manos Juntas is open throughout the week and every Saturday, which is the clinic’s busiest day, Shook has 30 or 40 volunteers assisting him with patients. Volunteers range from medical students and those interested in working in the medical field, to people who simply want to help. The setting allows Shook to provide guidance and hands-on experience to these emerging professionals and provide quality care to the clinic’s patients. The funding for this small clinic comes entirely from partnerships and generous donors, including Shook himself.
“We apply for grants all the time but don’t go to the community with letters. We have the occasional dinner or event so people can consider donating. We have a couple of extremely generous donors that help significantly. And I’ve donated my salary from my work at OU. I have done so for 26 years.”
But it wasn’t just Oklahoma City residents that Shook was destined to help; his service would take him far past the US border.
“My daughter tricked me in another way,” Shook laughed. “She invited me to go with her on a mission trip to Nicaragua. And I said, ‘No, under any circumstances will I go’ and she said ‘Please? Finally, I gave in and said ‘Okay, I’ll go.’ So I went, and now we’ve done about 50 mission trips to Nicaragua over the years.”
As part of his efforts in Nicaragua, Shook created a medical records database system and converted it to Spanish so that clinics could provide better care while allowing him to help while he was home in Oklahoma. Recent unrest and instability in the small Central American country caused the mission trips to come to a halt, but Shook hopes to continue them in the future.
Shook hopes to see quality low-cost health care extended to all patients who need it far into the future at Manos Juntas.
“It’s not a vision, it’s a dream. I started working toward this end some time ago. I think it should be an OU Outreach Clinic that’s low cost, maybe a $25 visit. But that’s not always how things work. A problem we have is that it’s hard becoming federally qualified at this time because you have to charge people a fee, and you have to try to collect it. And they want you to be serious about it,” Shook said.
“There’s a statement I’ve heard many times, and I think it’s silly. ‘You don’t get good output unless you get some input. If you want good health care, you’ve got to pay the doctor something.’ I’ve been hearing that since I was a freshman at medical school. We’ve pretty much proven here that that’s not true. Our patients are really dedicated; they take care of themselves well. And there’s no charge at all. But if we could get the support and become an outreach clinic, I would not object if they charge a modest $20 to $25 per visit. I don’t think that’s too bad. We do allow the patients to make donations — many of them donate $50. They feel like they belong here and I feel like they belong here also. It’s not as true anymore, but many of our patients have no papers, and we’ve never asked the question. We know by the way they behave that they’re afraid. [You see it] in their eyes. It’s less of an issue now, but every person deserves quality health care.”
Shook has been practicing medicine for a long time, far past the age when most doctors hang up the stethoscope, and he doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.
“When I retired from OU, I’d been practicing for 65 years,” Shook said. “I just really saw the need to keep working. So I’m retired officially, but just not ready to retire. I love it. To me, that ideal life is to be working where you enjoy your work. So I just keep doing it because I enjoy it and I will until I can’t.”
To learn more about Manos Juntas or to help, visit manosjuntas.org.