“Some men see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.” While Dr. Jack Geiger may not have said these words, he lived them. Dr. Geiger defined what it is to care for the underserved, to commit and dedicate your life to achieve social justice, and to fight tirelessly for those in need. He turned his dream into a reality when he started the first Community Health Center in Mound Bayou, Mississippi, and that model has always served as inspiration to everyone who cares for the underserved.
Jack Geiger was a warrior for the underserved. His compassion and humanity challenged our perception of healthcare as something much more than the transaction of clinical diagnosis and treatment, but as an instrument for social change with the potential to profoundly impact individuals, families, communities, and nations. He, and his partner Dr. Count Gibson, saw the brutal social and health inequities that existed in the United States and through their tireless advocacy began their demonstration project, the Health Centers Program, to support the underserved and to provide care to those without. Today, his legacy lives in thousands of communities across the country that are served by health centers. More than 30 million people have access to healthcare thanks in no small part to Dr. Geiger’s vision and his lifelong commitment to the underserved. As the late Congressman Elijah Cummings once said in speaking of health centers, he “changed the trajectory of people’s lives.”
We at ACU have always seen Dr. Geiger as the very definition of a clinician for the underserved. He had a direct and permanent impact on millions of lives through his work, including many of us at the ACU personally. We are deeply saddened to lose this irreplaceable titan for the underserved. Though we mourn his loss, we are grateful for the incredible example he provided so generously. His life and legacy give truth to what one person can do when committed to fairness, justice and equity. He, and his work, will live on in each of us.
“And that is what we do: we make a road out. We work with the people to build a road out of their circumstances, out of inequity, out of poverty.” – Dr. Jack Geiger, Keynote Address, 2002 DGH General Assembly