The doctor is in

| 7/20/2007

Dr. John McElligott has a vision to provide convenient and affordable health care for truckers across the country, and with the grand opening of another Professional Drivers Medical Depots in West Memphis, AR, he is one step closer to achieving his goal of opening as many as 80 clinics nationwide.

“It’s been a good day here today,” McElligott told Land Line on Friday, July 20. “We have had at least 75 truckers stop by and see us.”

Dave Nemo of XM Satellite Radio fame was master of ceremonies at the West Memphis PDMD clinic grand opening, and broadcast his XM show live from the front lobby of the new clinic.

McElligott’s time is in high demand these days, with three more clinics scheduled to open in August and September, including clinics at the Sapp Brothers Truck Stop in Peru, IL, and at Petro Stopping Centers in El Paso, TX, and Atlanta.

The Vision
McElligott, PDMD CEO, said Bill Godwin is the true visionary behind the PDMD concept of having medical facilities available at travel centers for truckers.

“He brought this idea to me about 10 years ago,” McElligott said. “He has been in the trucking industry for more than 40 years.”

Godwin, and his wife, Joyce, from Van Alstyne, TX, attended the grand opening in West Memphis.

McElligott said having a good working relationship with local hospitals and pharmacies is also critical to PDMD’s long-term success.

Patients at the two current clinics are given plastic cards with their medical history on them. The long-term plan is that other PDMD clinics across the country will be able to pull up the information on their computers if follow-up visits are needed.

“The owner-operators are the ones who don’t have the health care like the big fleets and medium fleets,” McElligott said. “We are trying to make sure they get access to health care that is inexpensive.”

Affordable access to health care
In the trucking industry, preventive maintenance is key to extending the life of a trucker’s rig. McElligott has made it his mission to convince truckers to apply the same philosophy to their health.

“Preventive medicine is like preventive maintenance on a truck,” McElligott said. “I tell them don’t wait until your health breaks down – let’s fix it – let’s get you tuned up.”

OOIDA Foundation Director of Operations Tom Weakley said McElligott understands truckers and understands the physical demands and time constraints they face when out on the road.

“Having clinics like these set up for truckers around the country will benefit many drivers who simply would not see a doctor if something like this didn’t exist,” Weakley said.

He said many truckers often don’t seek medical treatment simply because of logistics.

“Many drivers are unwilling to leave their trucks, and since many cities won’t allow them to park within city limits, they would have to call for a cab and then leave their trucks,” Weakley said.

He said as many as 30 percent of OOIDA members do not have health care benefits, which is one of the main reasons why OOIDA has decided to team up with the PDMD clinics to offer a discounted price for Association members.

“We are offering a $20 discount to OOIDA members who use our services for a routine DOT physical,” said Bill Buzbee, PDMD chief operating officer. “All the drivers need to do is show us their OOIDA membership card and we will honor it.”

Buzbee said a routine DOT physical with the discount will cost a driver about $45 – less than it would cost a driver who had little or no insurance or no time to schedule off the road for a doctor visit.

Earning respect
McElligott – or “Doc,” as many of his patients call him – has earned the respect of the patients he has helped through his extensive understanding of the trucking industry.

He told the story to OOIDA officials a few months ago about a Canadian trucker who had come into the clinic in Knoxville, TN. The driver had severely cut his thumb more than a week earlier, but hadn’t received treatment until stopping for fuel at the Knoxville Petro.

“I had a hand surgeon on the phone, walking me through the procedure to help fix this guy up because he had a hot load to deliver and couldn’t be late,” he said. “We got him fixed up and back on the road.”

In June he told Land Line that in one day he had removed a lesion off a trucker’s forehead, called the ambulance for a trucker who was having a heart attack in his clinic, and negotiated down the price of a costly knee surgery for a trucker who didn’t have health insurance.

That same day he prescribed medicine to help another driver quit smoking and honored a “money-back guarantee” he had given a patient with a skin disorder that he had been struggling with for most of his life.

“It was a lot better, but he wanted me to take another look at it,” McElligott said.

Personal illness clinic in Knoxville is open
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that all Americans between the ages of 13 and 64 be routinely tested for HIV.

McElligott said the Knoxville PDMC clinic is already adhering to the CDC’s recommendation and is offering free STD screening, which includes HIV testing, on Wednesdays of every week at that location.

So far, he said the “personal illness clinic,” as the testing program is being called, has received more than 100 phone calls from truckers interested in the new program, which has been up and running for about three weeks now. He said at least six truckers have already taken advantage of the free testing, which could run individuals more than $1,000 for the testing and medicine if they had to pay for it on their own.

“The results are confidential and are not turned in to anybody – it’s not part of any routine physical or anything,” he said. “The personal illness clinic that we’ve set up is for truckers who think have ever been exposed to something, which most people in their lives have done something to be exposed, whether they know it or not.”

For more infomation, visit the PDMD Web site by clicking here.

– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer