Doctor in eastern Iowa sets up free foot clinic

Published: Oct. 23, 2018 at 4:54 PM CDT
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An eastern Iowa doctor says his knowledge in family medicine requires him to help others in need. That belief is why he volunteers so much throughout Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.

Dr. Tom Novak is a family medicine doctor at Mercy Family Medicine in West Branch. Once a month he puts on a free foot clinic at the Iowa City Catholic Worker's House.

Novak said nail trims can seem basic but are truly beneficial to one's overall health. It helps prevent infections, or in some cases even an amputation.

Novak says, too often, people who are homeless have to wear uncomfortable shoes all hours of the day.

"The first time we were there, there was a man with some thick calluses and I removed them. And he stood up and said 'Whoa' and I was as like 'Are you okay?' And he said 'I don't remember the last time my feet didn't hurt.'"

That reason alone keeps him coming back. Novak runs the clinic with a team of volunteers on the third Saturday of each month.

"They get pampered a little bit which doesn't happen too much in their lives."

Novak enjoys getting to know new people. But seeing their struggles can be emotional.

"There is always some feeling of frustration of this has to be done being with. That we aren't providing the things they need for safe housing and food and transportation."

So he turns to action. Knowing his work helps people feel more comfortable during their daily lives.

"It is overwhelming when they are so grateful for something so small but knowing we took time out to help."

A gesture he hopes others consider.

"We are all here to take care of each other and it's not that we don't have enough resources we just need to share them well."

Dr. Novak also volunteers with the Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition. The nonprofit works to reduce the harms associated with drug use.

Novak has set up mobile clinics where people can get tested for HIV or Hepatitis C. And learn about clean needle exchange.

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