Skip to Main Content

Extreme Makeover Free Clinic Edition

Inspired by the TV reality series “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” The Iowa Clinic Healthcare Foundation has provided “extreme makeovers” of Free Clinics in central Iowa since 2005.

Your Local Health | Written by BJ Towe

Inspired by the TV reality series “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” The Iowa Clinic Healthcare Foundation has provided “extreme makeovers” of Free Clinics in central Iowa since 2005.

When Christina Taylor, M.D., an Internal Medicine physician with The Iowa Clinic, thinks about the patients seen at central Iowa's Free Clinics, she thinks primarily of young families.

“Most parents who use a Free Clinic have jobs, but they don't have health insurance benefits. Often, they have several children who need immunizations, sports physicals, and other services,” says Taylor. “Without insurance, healthcare isn't affordable for them.”

Many of Iowa's 38 Free Clinics are located in central Iowa. Each one is run by physicians, nurses, and staff who volunteer their time to care for individuals in need. Typically, clinics operate one night a week in a church, community center, or another space not originally intended for providing medical care.

From Closets to Clinics

“Imagine having all the medical supplies, forms, and other items stored on top of exam tables in closets,” explains Wendy Gray, Executive Director of Free Clinics of Iowa.

“A couple of hours before the clinic begins, volunteers pull those items out of storage and set up. When the clinic opens, patients may register at folding tables and be seen in exam rooms created by partitions made out of fabric,” Gray says. “It's not that free clinics are supposed to be convenient or comprehensive — they're not — but the space does impact our ability to provide services in a dignified and compassionate way.”

Dr. Taylor, who also chairs The Iowa Clinic Healthcare Foundation, says, “Our Foundation's main mission is to improve the health of our community. Because Free Clinics do improve community health, supporting them is our number-one  funding priority.”

About 10 years ago, the Foundation began raising funds to provide “extreme makeovers” at established-but-makeshift Free Clinic locations in central Iowa. To date, five extreme makeovers have been completed.

Volunteers Roll Up Their Sleeves

When in 2005 the Foundation's first extreme makeover occurred at the Mae Davis Clinic in Valley Junction, dozens of The Iowa Clinic physicians, nurses, staff members and family members got involved. Over the course of a weekend, they installed new cabinets, painted walls, did landscaping, and transformed the clinic into a warm and welcoming space.

Gray recalls, “The volunteers absolutely loved it; they wanted to do it again. That was the beginning of our long and wonderful relationship with The Iowa Clinic Healthcare Foundation.”

Just last month, dozens of volunteers from The Iowa Clinic pitched in to complete the Foundation's latest clinic makeover, this one in newly allocated space at Grace United Methodist Church at 3700 Cottage Grove in Des Moines. “None of the clinics that have had this transformation would have ever been able to do it without the financial and human support of the Foundation and The Iowa Clinic,” says Gray. “We feel blessed to have this relationship.”

Extreme Makeover of the Free Clinic at Grace United Methodist Church

April 2014

The Iowa Clinic Healthcare Foundation

Donated by Ryan Construction

600 sq. ft.

3 exam rooms, private room for blood draws, and a physician consult room.

The Iowa Clinic Staff and Family Members
Ryan Construction


There are nearly a dozen Free Clinic locations in metropolitan Des Moines. For more information and clinic hours, please visit

Back to top