CP Interview: W. Marvin Hardy IV, M.D.

Photo courtesy of the Hardy family

As a young man, lifelong resident and beloved pediatrician W. Marvin Hardy IV, M.D., 48, felt a calling to minister to the poor. Little did he know it would lead him to open Grace Medical Home in 2010, a nationally recognized medical practice for the poor and uninsured in Orange County. Grace will move into a new, larger facility in the coming year. Marvin and his wife, Carla, have three children and are part of an extended family with deep roots in College Park.

Did you always want to be a doctor?
After Edgewater, I went to Furman University and absolutely loved my science classes. I heard a quote from the founder of World Vision, Bob Pierce, that said, “May my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.” I got excited about medicine and using my mind to help people. I was fortunate enough to get into Emory medical school and be exposed to underserved folks there. There are so many people in need.


Did you know back then you might do something like Grace?
There are Christ-centered medical practices around the country. I read about one in Atlanta. It’s like Grace but 10 times bigger. I visited; it took me four years, but I couldn’t live with myself. There was a team of folks (in Orlando) committed to providing upside-down care for those folks not used to getting care. You have to listen to what God puts on your heart. It came down to that. I felt like God tapped me on my shoulder and said [that] it’s time to get working.

How has Grace evolved?
When we started, about 85 percent of the uninsured nationwide were not a part of a medical home. Where were they going to get care? Who is following up on them? Who is keeping their chart? That’s what broke my heart. We had three goals — to be Christ-centered, a medical home, for the poor. We weren’t sure what that would look like. Now, once you’re a patient, you can call just like a regular doctor’s office. We have same-day sick visits. You can come for a physical or to pick up your meds. This is your doctor’s office. A medical home is a hub, a home base. All faiths are welcome, all nationalities. The criteria is, if you are uninsured and low-income and live in the county, you qualify. We take everybody. Everybody’s welcome. We have 11,000 patient encounters every year. I see many who have never been to a doctor. Or they haven’t been in a very long time, so they come in very burdened. We try to slowly chip away at the problems they have been carrying.

Social and legal services are also offered to patients?
As a need arises, we pray, we discuss, and we reach out. Social services affect health. This is a national statistic: 20 percent of one’s health is determined by medical care. Everything else is social determinates of health. We saw that the lack of food, the lack of money, education, housing, affects health. Grace has grown as needs arise.

An exciting new era is coming for Grace with a new building.
It’s three times bigger, about 20,000 square feet, on Concord Street. We’ve been running into each other here. We have to use exam rooms for offices. What allows us to see more people are the volunteer doctors, and we have enough who want to come, but we don’t have the space to put them. In the new space we expect to have about 18,000 patient encounters per year. We are working on raising funds to meet a challenge grant of $800,000 from Dr. Phillips Charities to start renovations.

What makes you happiest here?
Learning the stories of the people who come, building relationships, locking arms. It’s recognizing that each person that comes through the door is made in the image of God, and we have the opportunity to restore that image in the people that we see. It’s not the number of patients. It’s not the services. It’s that we’re making an impact on people’s lives. We’re focused on quality. We’re a NCQA (National Commission on Quality Assurance) Level 3 patient-centered medical home. There are only a handful of charitable places that have that accreditation around the country. It’s about quality and no second-rate care.

What is your greatest challenge?
When we started, we said we have to have continuity. We had to raise a year of operating budget before we even opened. I’m happy we’re here and have been for 8 years — that people keep coming back. We feel like we’re swimming upstream, going against the current. Not many people understand what we do.

How do you personally recharge?
Being in the exam room and seeing patients is what is fun. I also take my dog to the woods at the family property. I mow and get on the tractor and make trails and hike. I love being with my family. I like fishing, kayaking, skiing.

What does College Park mean to you?
I take great pride in being from College Park and going to all the local schools. College Park is a very inclusive, warm place that welcomes everybody. My experience was getting to know people from all walks of life. And that definitely had a big impact on my life. To have friends and learn their heartache, to be honest, that’s what really started me thinking about Grace. I wondered where they were getting care. When we first opened Grace, five of my former classmates were patients. Who we are helping is our neighbors.

The Hardy family — (left to right) Will, Sutton, and Helen with their parents, Carla and Marvin Hardy —visiting Montana in July 2017.
Photo courtesy of the Hardy family

When did you and Carla get married?
We married in 1992, five days before med school started. At Emory, you had a class for two weeks when you started. I didn’t do well. That was my worst grade!

Are you ready to be empty nesters soon?
We’re ready! We told our kids we had fun before they were born, and we’ll have fun after they leave the house.

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