Life Story: Fred Lewis

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Dr. Fred Lewis was known for his good bedside manner. He had a special way of making his patients feel at home.

Dr. Lewis had his own practice and worked at Open Cities Health Center in St. Paul for 34 years, treating patients who didn’t have insurance. In this week’s Life Story, Angela Davis shows us what inspired him to become a doctor.

Dr. Lewis was known for never being able to say ‘no’ to a patient who wanted to see him, even if that person didn’t have an appointment.

LaTonya Patterson manages the front desk reception area at Open Cities Health Center.

“If someone walked in, it was ‘Put ’em in. I’ll see them,'” she said. “And we were like ‘Oh Dr. Lewis, the schedule is packed. It is standing room out there in the lobby. What are we going to do?’ … ‘Put ’em in.'”
That’s what he would say, put them in.

The staff at Open Cities says Dr. Lewis was also known for taking his time during appointments, offering a sympathetic ear and sometimes a shoulder to cry on.

Martha Overstreet-Carter is a clinic certified medical assistant who worked with Dr. Lewis nearly 30 years.

“They would come in and not just talk to him about their health problem, but the problems they were having at home with their children or maybe other things. Dr. Lewis was one of those old-fashioned doctors,” she said.

Pamela McCoy is also a clinic certified medical assistant at Open Cities.

“He worked every Saturday. He was a community doctor. We are a community clinic. The patients are still coming. They know he is not here, but they are still coming to support,” she said.

Deloris Thompson works in medical records.

“They could talk to him like he was a brother, dad or uncle. You could tell him things you wouldn’t want to tell anyone else, and you knew it didn’t go past him,” she said.

Fred’s interest in medicine came as a child growing up in Texas. He was an athlete and a scholar who watched his grandfather die shortly after a surgery.

“Without good medical care he ended up not making it, not surviving,” Dr. Lewis’s wife Gwen said. “He would talk to Fred and tell him he’d have to be the man of the house now.”

After graduating from the University of Houston, Fred headed to Meharry Medical School in Nashville, and married Gwen.

“That was his mission, to make sure he became a good doctor so that people of all walks of life could have good health care,” Gwen said.

Jamal Lewis says he and his three siblings watched their dad work hard, but also make time to have fun with his family.

“We had a great example of how to be a strong provider and how to be a good husband and father, those type of things and so I will take those memories and be able to incorporate that into my household,” he said.

Dr. Fred Lewis also worked at North Point Wellness Center in Minneapolis for more than 25 years. He was 64 years old when he lost his battle with cancer on Feb. 24.

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