By James Dowd, The Commercial Appeal, 2/20/11
Dr. Scott Morris, founder and executive director of the Church Health Center, will receive the title of Master Entrepreneur from the Society of Entrepreneurs, the organization’s highest honor.
As a baseball-loving and devoutly religious kid growing up in Georgia, Dr. Scott Morris figured one day he’d either wind up as a pitcher for the Atlanta Braves or enter the ministry.
But there were a couple obstacles to those early career ambitions.
First, Morris wasn’t that talented at America’s pastime, acknowledging, “Well, Atlanta never called, which I guess says a lot about my ability and at this point, I don’t expect to be recruited.”
Second, while he was drawn to the ministry, he wasn’t entirely convinced it was the right career path.
“I always liked church, but the thought of preaching 52 sermons a year sent shivers down my spine. I knew that wasn’t my true calling.”
Fortunately for Morris and subsequently for Memphians, he discovered that calling while in seminary at Yale Divinity School.
Stumbling across a pamphlet that offered tips on how to start a health clinic, something in Morris clicked.
“That was it. I knew what I wanted to do,” Morris said. “After seminary, I went to medical school with the specific motivation of starting a clinic in an underserved area. When I finished school, I came to Memphis and that’s what I did.”
In recognition of his wide-ranging achievements and contributions to the community, Morris will be honored as a “Master Entrepreneur” at the annual Society of Entrepreneurs black-tie gala on April 9. He was inducted into the society in 1999 and this recognition is the organization’s highest honor.
These days, the multivocational Morris serves as an associate minister at St. John’s United Methodist Church in Midtown on Peabody, which is situated across the street from the Church Health Center that he founded in 1987 and where he is a general practitioner.
He’s also a columnist for The Commercial Appeal, contributes to the CHC’s website hopeandhealing.org and has just released “Health Care You Can Live With” ($19.99/Barbour). The book is available at area retailers and online.
Proceeds from book sales will benefit the CHC, and Morris will sign copies at Costco, 3775 Hacks Cross at 1 p.m. on March 5. For details, call 214-0054.
“I know of few people who have so totally redefined the industry of health care as much as Scott has,” said friend Bob Buckman, retired CEO of Buckman Laboratories. “He’s taught his ideas to others and freely shared his concepts of affordable health care, which has resulted in similar clinics being replicated across the country.”
For Morris, that’s precisely the point.
“If this type of health care is only available at the corner of Peabody and Bellevue, then it’s not that great of an idea,” Morris said. “It needs to be reproduced in clinics all over the country, and I’m glad to see that happening.”
From the first dozen patients who walked through the doors of the Church Health Center when it opened in 1987, today more than 70,000 are treated by CHC staffers and volunteers each year. The facility’s wellness center logs more than 120,000 annual visits.
With its yearly budget of $13.5 million, the CHC is sustained through income-based sliding-scale fees and by donations from individuals, organizations and businesses.
The model of providing affordable, low-cost medical care to the working poor has been adopted by other clinics and religious organizations throughout the country.
By encouraging medical personnel to donate time to treat the underprivileged and by training church members to promote wellness programs in their congregations, supporters say the CHC concept continues to improve community health and welfare.
“Scott is a remarkable human being who’s led by a passionate, heartfelt desire to heal,” said SOE member Mike Bruns. “So often, people want to protect their ideas, but Scott is concerned with protecting people, and that’s why he shares his concept with anyone who’s interested. His insistence on taking care of patients who otherwise might not receive adequate health care is as commendable as it is inspirational.”
– James Dowd: 529-2737
Dr. Scott Morris
Occupation: Associate minister at St. John’s United Methodist Church, founder of the Church Health Center and author of newly released “Health Care You Can Live With”
Address: CHC at 1210 Peabody; St. John’s at 1207 Peabody
Phone: 272-7170 (CHC); 726-4104 (St. John’s)
Employees: CHC has nine medical providers and 220 workers on staff, and counts more than 600 volunteer physicians throughout the area
Online: churchhealthcenter.org and healthcareyoucanlivewith.com
Honor: Morris will be celebrated as a Master Entrepreneur, along with four 2011 SOE inductees, during a black-tie gala April 9