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In this photo from 2014, Dr. Katherine O'Rourke, left, and medical student Laura Hanks, center, talk to patient Kasandra Schenck, 20, at Share the Health, a free clinic in Madison focusing on gynecological care. The clinic, started by O'Rourke and Dr. Mary Landry, addresses what the doctors say is a continuing need, despite new insurance options under the Affordable Care Act. The clinic is open once a month, by appointment, inside Madison Women's Health on Research Park Boulevard.

Share the Health, a free clinic offering gynecological services in Madison, has cared for nearly 200 women and helped prevent cancer in many of them since opening two years ago.

The clinic is offered one Thursday evening a month, by referral and appointment for patients in Dane County and bordering counties, at Madison Women’s Health on Research Park Boulevard.

It was started by Dr. Mary Landry, a UW School of Medicine and Public Health obstetrician-gynecologist who works at Meriter Hospital and UW-Madison’s University Health Services, and Dr. Katherine O’Rourke, an OB-GYN resident at UW.

Most of the patients have had abnormal Pap smears, abnormal uterine or vaginal bleeding, or pelvic masses or pain. Services include biopsies, ultrasounds, exams called colposcopies and various treatments.

The clinic initially saw about eight patients a month but has expanded that to 10 to 15, O’Rourke said.

“We’re getting to the point of being overwhelmed with referrals,” she said. “We think it’s a good thing because more people are finding out about us.”

Last year, the clinic started providing free prescriptions for women who can’t get them through other programs.

All of the patients are uninsured, and the vast majority of them are Spanish-speaking, Landry said. Many have lost jobs that provided insurance or are undocumented and don’t qualify for insurance, she said.

“To us, they’re patients who are uninsured, and they’re deserving of care and the resources we’re providing,” Landry said.

The clinic has diagnosed two women with endometrial cancer, referring them to treatment at UW Health, and helped prevent cervical or endometrial cancer in dozens of women through procedures to remove abnormal cells or hormonal treatments for abnormal bleeding.

Preventing the cancers “is very satisfying,” Landry said. “That’s really what we’re trying to do.”

— David Wahlberg

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