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As Dr. James “Jim” O. Shaw’s faith grew, he felt called upon by God to give back to his community. After speaking with the pastor of Rising Sun Baptist Church, he was encouraged to consider the Lackey area.
In 1995, the Lackey Free Clinic was created by Dr. Shaw and his wife, Cooka. Twenty years later, the clinic has about 14 part-time and 16 full-time employees along with more than 450 volunteers who provide free medical care to uninsured, low-income and unemployed residents.
Dr. Shaw died July 29, 2015, at the age of 70.
After knocking on a few doors and recognizing the need for medical care, Dr. Shaw, a successful pulmonologist, posted a cardboard sign stating “Free Medical Care” outside of a Sunday school classroom at Rising Sun Baptist Church – and no one showed, Lackey Free Clinic Executive Director Carol Sale said.
After weeks of no patients, it only took one person from the church choir to ask for a blood pressure reading to begin building trust between Dr. Shaw and the community, Mrs. Sale said. Soon the clinic outgrew the church and was on an uphill climb when Dr. Shaw was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer in 1997. The clinic closed for three months before he stabilized and opened once again, and they’ve been going strong ever since.
The Lackey Free Clinic was the first free clinic in Virginia to be recognized by a federal agency, the National Committee for Quality Assurance. They have “a tremendous number of donors” and over the past 20 years, the Williamsburg Health Foundation has donated millions of dollars to the clinic, Mrs. Sale said. The clinic went from one patient to more than 1,600. In 2014, there were 12,500 patient visits.
“If you were to ask Dr. Shaw, ‘Was this your vision?’ he would say, ‘This was not what we imagined,” Mrs. Sale said. “He just wanted to serve God and He is the one who grew this ministry to what it is now.”
For years, Dr. Shaw was the medical director at the clinic and never took home a salary, no matter how many hours he gave, Mrs. Sale said. He continued in this position until 2009 when his health required him to step down, but he continued seeing patients and attending committee and board meetings for years afterward.
Throughout any roadblocks in his personal or professional life, Dr. Shaw stayed positive and put his faith in God, Mrs. Sale said. He was a man of extraordinary faith and during difficult times, he told Mrs. Sale that God would step up and bring along something better, and he was “absolutely right. God has been so faithful to the ministry.”
The best example of his faith and rewards came in the form of his own story, Mrs. Sale said. After being diagnosed with cancer in 1997, neither Dr. Shaw or his wife Cooka imagined he’d be around to see the growth and success of the clinic.
This past year, he celebrated his 70th birthday, his 50th anniversary with Cooka and the 20th anniversary of the clinic. It was “a miracle” that he had the strength and perseverance to push forward in spite of bone marrow transplants, chemotherapy and other treatments. Now, Mrs. Sale and the other employees at Lackey feel a profound sense of responsibility to maintain his legacy.
Mrs. Sale said the purpose of the clinic and the main vision Dr. Shaw focused on was to serve the community and love their patients as Christ would love them. The Bible verse he loved in reflection of the clinic was Matthew 25:40: “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
“He was a guide and mentor and leader to all of us,” Mrs. Sale said. “We feel privileged to carry on the legacy of the work he started.”
Dr. Shaw is survived by his wife, Cooka; son, Dr. Travis Shaw, of Richmond; daughter, Ashley Colonel, of Duval, Washington; and a number of grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015, at Williamsburg Community Chapel, Dr. Shaw’s home church for many years.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Lackey Free Clinic.
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Amanda Thames is the obituary writer for WYDaily. Reach her at 757-565-1079 ext. 222 or email@example.com.