Dr. Scott Morris
From the time Scott Morris was just a teenager, he knew he would do two things with his future --- serve God and work with people. Growing up in Atlanta, he felt drawn to the Church and at the same time drawn to help others, even from a very young age. It was naturally intrinsic, then, that after completing his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Virginia he went on to receive his M.Div. from Yale University and finally his M.D. at Emory University in 1983.
After completing his residency in family practice, Morris arrived in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1986 without knowing a soul, but determined to begin a health care ministry for the working poor. He promptly knocked on the doors of St. John’s Methodist Church and Methodist Hospital in Memphis inviting them to help, and then found an old house to refurbish and renovate. By the next year, the Church Health Center opened with one doctor --- Dr. Scott Morris --- and one nurse. They saw 12 patients the first day and Morris began living his mission to reclaim the Church’s biblical commitment to care for our bodies and spirits.
From the beginning, Morris saw each and every patient as a whole person, knowing that without giving careful attention to both the body and soul the person would not be truly well. So nine years after opening the Church Health Center, he opened its Hope & Healing Wellness Center. Today the Church Health Center has grown to become the largest faith-based clinic in the country of its type having cared for 60,000 patients of record without relying on government funding. The clinic handles more than 36,000 patient visits a year while the wellness center, which moved to its current 80,000-square-foot location on Union Avenue in 2000, serves more than 120,000 member visits each year. Fees are charged on a sliding scale based on income.
But those are simply statistics. They are not what Morris is most passionate about or the stories he loves to tell. They don’t tell the story of a woman who repeatedly came to the clinic with chronic illness. As Dr. Morris became concerned that her problem was more than the functioning of her physical body, he began to question her further. After learning she was a victim of rape, Morris made it possible for his patient to receive counseling and as she began the process of healing her broken soul, her body, too, was restored.
For Morris it is not only one-dimensional medical attention that he seeks to give every individual who walks through his doors. It is attention to their complete humanity and being fully present with them. It is kindness and compassion, and thinking beyond his own doorstep. It is this kind of holistic wellness practice that makes it possible for a homeless man to be able to get a job, to begin to support himself, and to feel a sense of personal dignity after simply having his teeth fixed. Unique in both its man and mission, the Church Health Center has become a national model others are following. There are now more than 20 clinics in the United States that were founded on the Center’s model. In 2003, the Church Health Center received the Innovations in Prevention Award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
In addition to caring for patients at the Center, Dr. Morris has also become a voice for them. He is a columnist, author of journal articles, and contributor to a number of publications, including a monthly column for The Commercial Appeal of Memphis, TN. Morris is also the recipient of numerous awards, including The Peacemaker Award for Innovative Health Care, Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, The Award for Excellence in Community Service, Yale Divinity School, and The Distinguished Physician Award for the state of Tennessee, The Tennessee Medical Association.
Morris is a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, the Memphis/Shelby County Medical Society, and the Tennessee Medical Association. He is an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church and remains a board certified physician who continues to do rounds at Church Health Center. His newest book, HEALTH CARE YOU CAN LIVE WITH: Discover Wholeness in Body and Spirit, releases January 2011 from Barbour Books.
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