Thursday, December 22, 2011

My Humanitarian Healthcare Hero -- Dr. Daniel Clapp

He was standing in our driveway holding a plate on which was an exquisite Scandinavian sweetbread and watching us decorating our Christmas tree.

He had been watching for awhile.

I glanced out our bay window and saw Dr. Dan Clapp, our neighbor, wearing a UMass Amherst jacket and smiling at us.

We invited Dr. Clapp in, and thanked him for the Scandinavian sweetbread that has become a tradition in our house on Christmas morning after the gifts are unwrapped.

I told Dr. Clapp that I had promised my students to broach the cutbacks at the University Health Services (UHS) to him to see what could be done and he mentioned, in his humble way, that he would be interviewed by a reporter, Scott Merzbach, soon and we could proceed from there. He and I agreed that health of our communities (students, faculty, staff, and neighbors) should always be a top priority.

He did not state the reason for the interview and that was that he is the recipient of the 2011 Andrus Award for Community Service given to an individual in each state by the AARP. Dr. Clapp is the winner out of 26 nominees in the state of Massachusetts. The coverage has now hit the media with articles in our local papers (the Daily Hampshire Gazette and The Amherst Bulletin) and beyond.

Dr. Clapp had worked at the UMass Amherst University Health Services for 32 years and considered it, at that time, as a model university health center. Since "retiring" in 2002, and throughout his professional career, his volunteer work would make someone half his age (he is now 75) panting for breath.

In 1964, he and his wife, Solveig, moved to the Philippines to work as missionaries at an orphanage where he treated patients suffering from malnutrition and other illnesses that affect those living in poverty. They stayed there for a year, and, after assuming his position at UHS, he and his wife would return every few years for a month to the Philippines. While in the Philippines, he also was a field agent for the Pathfinder Fund of Boston, which focuses of female reproductive health services.

Dr. Clapp's volunteer activities have included Meals on Wheels, starting a free clinic in the community, which serves 300 patients, many homeless and without health insurance. He is Chairman of the Council on Aging in Amherst, an on-call physician at the Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee, where he does examinations of military recruits, and is the physician for the Senior Health Services Nursing Center at the Amherst Senior Center, to name just a few of his volunteer healthcare and humanitarian activities.

He is also a great supporter of UMass Amherst women sports teams and plays the trumpet in the Oompah Band that I have heard play at many festive community occasions and events.

Dr. Clapp was nominated for the Andrus Award for Community Service by Nancy Pagano, the Senior Center Director in Amherst, who according to the wonderful front page article in the December 23, 2011 edition of the Amherst Bulletin by Scott Merzbach, said "the award recognizes a man who doesn't seek attention. His modesty is his cloak as he moves quietly and reliably serving those in need."

Dr. Clapp, you are our hero. Thank you for considering me to be your friend.

You are an inspiration and role model for us all.