Dr. Charles van der Horst: A Legacy of Love

Dr. Charles van der Horst probably wouldn’t want this article to be written about him. He wasn’t interested in stories about himself, but rather the people he served. We’ll try to do both.

Dr. van der Horst’s HIV/AIDS research and the Hepatitis C Elimination Program he brought to our Open Door Clinic as a volunteer were well-known in the medical community. He’d cured 24 uninsured neighbors of Hepatitis C before his untimely death doing something he loved – swimming in a marathon in the Hudson River. His death left a hole in many hearts, including his patients.

He answered their calls after hours and he worried about their health as much as he worried about their healthcare. When he wasn’t curing infectious disease, Dr. van der Horst was fighting for social justice in the halls of our legislature. To be certain, he made the world a better place than he found it.

Dr. van der Horst helped us open our doors wider and to more people. For 27 years, he worked at the University of North Carolina as an emeritus professor and renowned researcher. His connection to UNC allowed him to secure donations of Harvoni and Epclusa – the drug combination that cures Hep C – for the Open Door Clinic here at Urban Ministries of Wake County. It’s a treatment that is valued at $70,000.

We will, fortunately, be able to continue this work. We currently have six other patients in treatment and plan to add more. Two infectious disease physicians from UNC have offered to be our consultants on this program. True to his legacy, Dr. van der Horst left the Open Door Clinic Staff with a detailed protocol to follow so that this program can continue to serve others afflicted with Hepatitis C. They will continue to work with our community partners to serve these patients as he did.

Much of this work is made possible through the donation of the medications and medical professionals who volunteer their time. However, monetary donations also make it possible to for us to staff the clinic in order to treat more Hep C patients and other neighbors in need with chronic illnesses. We are grateful to Dr. van der Horst for the gifts he gave to us here, for the wealth of knowledge he left behind and for the opportunity to see his work through. Thank you – the community – for your support of the Open Door Clinic and other programs at UMWC.

“Sometimes I think services like that I misunderstood. There are people on the edge and Urban Ministries helps fill that gap. If they weren’t there, I see what a detrimental effect that would have on the community.”