CROWN POINT | Dr. Raymond Drasga has made a career out of fulfilling patients' needs, including those of people who cannot afford to pay for services.
Upon his retirement Jan. 1 after 30 years of service with Franciscan St. Anthony Health in Crown Point, where he served as medical director of the Burrell Cancer Institute, he leaves a legacy of helping patients not only afflicted by the disease, but those whose life circumstances would be next to hopeless had they not had access to free care.
In 1995, Drasga spearheaded efforts that led to the founding of St. Clare Health Clinic, which provides free, non-emergency primary health care for uninsured clients of six area counties.
"I recognized the need for a free clinic in this area and took the idea to the Mother Superior of the Sisters of St. Francis order that was in charge of the hospital at that time," Drasga recalled.
A community assessment followed and the idea was approved.
"We started with three people — me, Kathy Nix (a nurse practitioner who is still with the clinic) and Margaret Stoffregen-DeYoung (now nursing program director at the University of St. Francis Crown Point campus)," Drasga said.
Now, the staff, largely volunteers, includes more than 50 physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, off-site professionals and reception and support staff.
Annual patient visits have jumped to more than 4,000, from about 1,000 when the clinic opened, prompting a move in 2009 to a new, larger location at 1121 S. Indiana Ave.
David Ruskowski, hospital president, called Drasga a great physician and a true leader.
Drasga received the hospital's St. Raphael Award in 2010.
"This is the highest honor our nurses bestow upon physicians who exhibit to them the finest leadership, cooperation and teamwork," Ruskowski said. "We will miss Dr. Drasga's compassionate treatment of patients, families and St. Anthony staff. We wish him well in his well-deserved retirement."
Sister Aline Shultz, Franciscan Alliance corporate vice president of development, marketing and public relations, agreed.
"Dr. Drasga is an exceptional physician-leader. We have been blessed indeed to have had him working with us these many years."
Drasga, 60, who also ran Michiana Hematology Oncology PC - Advanced Center for Cancer Care in Crown Point, said his immediate retirement plans include two vacations.
After those, "We'll just let God guide things," he said.