May 3, 2021
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
Our beloved Medical Director, Dr. Richard Ulmer, has made his decision to retire effective September 1, 2021. Dr. Ulmer has served as our Medical Director since 2014, and has guided the Clinic’s staff and volunteers through significant improvements and important changes. Most notably, Dr. Ulmer oversaw the transition from the original site to the new clinic building opened in 2018, and with that, saw an increase in patient services and an increase in the number of patients receiving medical care.
Under Dr. Ulmer’s leadership, the Clinic expanded from its original geographic patient outreach of James, Johns and Wadmalaw Islands to include Folly Beach and also the Downtown hospitality workers. Dr. Ulmer has also been able to attract many new providers to the Clinic and, as of 2021, the Clinic supports the work of over 40 physicians and several other health care providers and volunteers.
Amidst all his achievements, Dr. Ulmer faced the need to manage the Clinic through the COVID epidemic. Beginning in March of 2020, Dr. Ulmer engaged staff, volunteers and community members to step up to the challenges the virus presented. To his credit, the Clinic remained opened and serving patients throughout the pandemic including having the Clinic designated as a COVID19 vaccination site in April. Dr. Ulmer and his team initiated “Telehealth” and virtual visits to meet our patients’ needs. Dr. Ulmer has led the Clinic through a most significant chapter, and one that will undoubtedly comprise the very foundation of its future.
In summary of his exceptional character, when the Post & Courier interviewed Dr. Ulmer about the work and mission of the Clinic in 2017, Dr. Ulmer shared his belief that “free clinics will only become more necessary, especially if the country persists in its belief that health care is not a human right…and that’s too bad. Ideally, we should go out of business.”
Indeed, for Dr. Ulmer, the true mission of his work is that it has never been work; it has always been a pursuit of service with a higher purpose; to lessen the degree of poverty faced across the Barrier Islands, one person at a time. Few believe that his retirement will be the end of his important work in our community.As the recipient of Charleston’s “Health Care Hero” award in 2017, Dr. Ulmer was praised for his commitment to the uninsured population, representing not just a culture of compassion, but the very living embodiment of the word.
To staff, volunteers and patients, Dr. Ulmer has served as much more than a Medical Director during his tenure at BIFMC. He has become a pillar of the Clinic; a mentor; a leader, a healer, and a person to look to for a ready smile during a hard day. Dr. Ulmer’s presence in the clinic every day will be sorely missed; but it is our fortune that the inspiration he has long cultivated will remain.
The Board of Directors will convene a search committee to identify his successor, and we will keep you posted as that process goes forward. Dr Ulmer has agreed to stay in his role until he can hand over his duties to the new Medical Director. Please join me in expressing our sincere gratitude to Richard Ulmer for all he has done, and continues to do, for our clinic and our patients.
David L. Dunlap, Chair BIFMC Board of Directors
Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic is a free clinic in Charleston, SC, that provides free medical care to eligible patients, just like any family practitioner or internist. The Free Clinic serves uninsured adults living at or below 299 % of the Federal poverty level who live or work on Johns, James, & Wadmalaw Island or Folly Beach, or serve the Hospitality Industry of Downtown Charleston. You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.