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Health Care Hero - Community service - Juan Montero MD, Retired surgeon Chesapeake

Updated: March 16, 2010 - 9:07 am

Posted: February 5, 2010

Dr. Juan Montero came to the U.S. in 1966 as a young doctor from the Philippines. He was excited to be here.

"We were welcomed by America," he said. "We were the luckiest bunch of physicians in the world because we came from different cultures, many from developing and Third World countries."

That marked the beginning of Montero's nearly 40-year career in medicine. He retired in 2007 on his 65th birthday, but he has in no way left medicine. He is leading teams of doctors to Third World nations with Physicians for Peace, has founded a new branch of the organization dedicated to work in the Philippines, and is working with the free medical clinic he founded in Chesapeake.

Montero has always had a spot in his heart for those without access to medical care. He started volunteering on the Eastern Shore in the late 1970s, running mobile health clinics for migrant workers.

"In the late 1980s I recognized a lot of patients were losing their insurance due to affordability and there had to be something done. I knew there were a few clinics in Virginia, but we needed one here," Montero said.

When Montero founded the Chesapeake Care Free Clinic in 1992, he told colleagues it would be temporary.

"I thought these kinds of facilities would be gone by the turn of the century, but I was so wrong. More than ever now we need these facilities," Montero said. "Free clinics are the only real safety net for the uninsured."

Montero is outspoken about the need for health care reform and calls the need for free clinics an "indictment of America's poor health care delivery system."

Retirement doesn't mean rest for Montero. He's working on another program to organize teams of retired doctors like himself for missions back to their home countries.

"You have the longing to go home and see families and give back to your homeland," Montero said. "I want to reverse the brain drain that occurred in those countries by leading these doctors back."nib

- Mary Worrell