Dr. Evelyn Schmidt, now in her 80s, was the longtime CEO of Lincoln Health Center in Durham, NC.
Dr. Schmidt has a passion for health care, especially the underserved. She believes all people deserve medical care and a lifetime of services. She has a special affinity for women and children.
“This country needs to consider the needs of those who cannot afford medical care and their children. Women and children’s needs are often forgotten by our politicians,” she said.
Dr. Schmidt was trained as a physician at Duke University at a time when few women entered medical school. She recalled that there was no housing available on campus for women so she rented a room in a house near East Campus.
She majored in biology and chemistry but still had time to take Shakespeare and Music during her pre-med studies at Duke. She recalls those times fondly and remembers her education as challenging and exceptional.
After she graduated from medical school in 1950, Schmidt moved to New York City and started a health center there. Dr. Cecil Shepp of Chapel Hill was a colleague in New York and when Durham was looking for a leader to head the Lincoln Health Center, he helped lure her back to North Carolina. By 1971, she had become Lincoln’s CEO.
Dr. Schmidt has seen medical technology change during her years as a doctor, but she still believes the care and knowledge of the patient comes first. Dr. Schmidt sees good and bad in technological advance. Though she’s a big supporter of using new technology for children as learning tools, she says simple communication between mothers and their babies can’t be neglected.
She has seen more bureaucracy in government and less concern on the part of the government than there once was. She says in a progressive country like the U.S., a lack of medical care is unacceptable. To be an effective proponent of healthcare, Dr. Schmidt believes it’s important to lobby politicians, both local and those in Washington, D.C., which she often did. She reaches out to Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives in her quest for more affordable health care for all.
Dr. Schmidt believes the legacy of the 50-year anniversary of community health centers is to keep prominent the need to provide medical care for low-income people. She takes pride in in the centers continuing to serve that need.
“I believe health care for all people is one of the pressing problems of our time,” she said. “It’s up to us to be heard and to help people. Health care is a fundamental human right.”