Sherryl L. Parks | Kalamath Drive
Doc Richard Wheelock Works Tirelessly for the Under-served
Dr. Joe Bonanno, Jim Hallenin, R.N., Dr. Amin Rasul, Kathy Templin,
R. N., Dr. Richard Wheelock and Rita Moreno, LVN at St Leo’s Clinic.
Photo Sherryl L. Parks
One of our neighbors, Dr. Richard Wheelock continues to make a difference at the age of 82. Instead of walking his dogs on the beach he works tirelessly for St. Leo’s Clinics in Solana Beach which offer free medical and dental care to Hispanics and our other low income neighbors working as babysitters, gardeners, restaurant staff and in the nearby fields.
Dr. Wheelock moved to Del Mar from Texas into his brick house on Carolina Road in 1955 with his lovely wife Mary who is a former nurse. They raised 3 daughters and one son in that house. That same year he opened the Del Mar Clinic on the corner of Camino Del Mar and 14th Street where he practiced medicine for 36 years
Shortly after his retirement in 1991 Wheelock began to cross the border to provide health care. However, he soon saw the need for helping those living right here in the canyons of North County. Wheelock joined with Al Graff, an ordained deacon for St. James Catholic Church and fellow Rotarian, to find a location for a clinic. The storage room at the other Catholic Church in Solana Beach, St. Leo’s Church, was the first site. Today Wheelock has use of an office, 5 examination rooms, a diagnostic laboratory and a small pharmacy.
On Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings medical professionals of a high quality provide outstanding pro bono care for up to 80 patients each week. Many of these volunteers have been recruited and coordinated by Doc Wheelock. I spoke with Kathy Templin, a nurse working with him for almost 18 years. She reported that the most common diagnosis is for the common cold. Many patients are seeking relief from back pain, arthritis, work-related injuries and diabetes. TB has been diagnosed where otherwise the patient would have died.
We asked about some of the most memorable diagnosis made at St. Leo’s Clinic. Not too long ago, a young man came into the clinic with a huge growth on top of his head, hidden by his baseball cap. Wheelock and others removed the growth and after lab examinations discovered the patient had an unusual form of cancer. Another mother of 7 children discovered she needed an aortic valve replacement and triple by-pass surgery. Wheelock was able to recruit doctors at Scripps Community Health to help save her life. A corneal transplant was performed on a 47-year old woman at the clinic.
Wheelock also recruited Dr. Bob Bobbit, a retired Encinitas dentist, to open a dental clinic at the St. Leo’s site and today 3-4 chairs offer services including dental hygiene care to both adults and children.
When he is not working at St. Leo’s Clinic Doc Wheelock is networking to help recruit other physicians and medical care providers to donate their time and expertise.