FORT WORTH, Texas — Joel Hunt didn’t get in to medicine for the money, which is good because he doesn’t make a lot.
In fact, he doesn’t even charge his patients, mainly because they can’t afford it.
Day after day, Hunt and his team from JPS Health Network and Acclaim Street Medicine go out and treat Fort Worth’s homeless.
“They have value and meaning and they are an important part of our community fabric, every community fabric,” said Hunt.
For nearly 15 years, Hunt, a former Army combat medic, has gone to homeless camps treating everything from sore legs to blurry vision.
He started in Salt Lake City in 2009, where he originally hoped to help patients internationally. However, he got an opportunity to work with the homeless and has done it ever since.
In that time, he’s discovered many of them suffer from the same condition.
“Some of the worst things people experiencing homelessness experience, from what I’ve heard, from what they’ve told me, is that they just get ignored,” said Hunt.
Hunt said oftentimes, simply touching someone and acknowledging they exist works wonders.
“Some of the greatest tools we have in our toolbox are our ears and just listening,” he said.
That’s why, after meeting their medical needs, his team will help them get housing and other social services.
For his efforts, Hunt was recently named the national physician assistant of the year by the American Academy of Physician Associates.
“He’s really this exceptional leader that makes every single person feel valued,” said Jennifer Orozco, president and chair of the AAPA.
“I get energy, I get joy, I get hope,” Hunt said. “And it’s absolutely the best career I could’ve imagined.”
And this might just make him the richest man in America.