Cancer Survivor Pays it Forward in Work at Free Clinic
Alumnus Provides Needed Healthcare for Low-Income Citizens
By Megan Perkins ’18
Tuesday, March 1, 2016
Alumnus Arne Walker ’95 is using the business skills and compassion for others he developed at JBU, as well as his personal experience battling cancer, to provide quality healthcare to the underprivileged in Twin Falls, Idaho.
As executive director at Wellness Tree Community Clinic, Walker supplies short-term medical care for those at or below the poverty level in the Twin Fall’s community that are uninsured or underinsured.
Established in 2004, Wellness Tree Community Clinic provides approximately 2,500 free patient encounters each year, involving appointments with a number of specialists including physicians, dentists, counselors, physical therapists, optometrists, chiropractors, and health educators.
As a brain cancer survivor, Walker feels a special connection to the patients of Wellness Tree and a strong sense of purpose in his work there. Diagnosed in March of 2000, Walker underwent several dangerous surgeries and treatments until being declared cancer free in June of the same year. Walker said that this experience altered his perspective on life and deepened his patience and understanding for those experiencing health troubles.
“As a brain cancer survivor that came close to death, I know what it is like to feel so sick that you feel helpless,” said Walker. Walker uses this empathy to counsel patients through the non-medical struggles they are facing by praying with them, encouraging them, and inviting them to church before or after their appointments.
The need for Wellness Tree’s services is evident in some areas of the community that experience what Walker calls “death by poverty.” Those living in poverty often neglect seeking treatment for simple health problems simply because the money must be spent on more pressing survival needs. Unfortunately, these minor complications can become life-threatening tragedies.
“Many of us have never had to choose between feeding ourselves and our children or going to a doctor,” explained Walker, “Non-essential problems are often pushed into the shadows where they continue to grow larger and larger until they push their way to the front of the list.”
Wellness Tree is the only clinic within 100 miles of the area offering entirely free health, dental and wellness services. By reducing the costs to taxpayers produced by low-income patients seeking expensive attention from local emergency rooms for preventable illnesses, Wellness Tree estimates that it has saved the Twin Falls community over $2 million dollars per year.
Operating solely on donations of time from physicians and college medical students, as well as private monetary gifts from individuals, businesses and a few foundations, Wellness Tree accepts no federal funding or payments from insurance companies or patients. By partnering with many local universities, Wellness Tree also serves the community by helping medical students receive the training and clinical experience required to complete their degrees.
One of three paid employees at Wellness Tree, Walker’s position as executive director entails tackling organizational challenges with financing, marketing, retail, pharmaceutical, medical, government affairs, laws and regulations, and team building on a daily basis.
“God used the training and education that I received at JBU to give me a solid foundation of knowledge, understanding and character that have been invaluable as I have sought to honor God with my career,” said Walker.
Throughout Walker’s career he has worked in the investment world, managed a chain of retail stores and a pharmaceutical business, helped start a non-profit organization, worked as a state lobbyist, owned an internet-based medical supply business, and worked as a television advertising consultant and sales representative.
Walker believes his diverse career path has led him to discover God’s calling for his life in his position at Wellness Tree and in outside ministry opportunities
“I do not know what all God has planned for my future, but I know that He is a good God that enjoys giving good gifts to his children,” said Walker.