Remembering Dr. Thomas McInerney

Dr. Thomas McInerney was a physician, volunteer, and friend of the Portland Community Free Clinic. He died unexpectedly at his home on February 10, 2023. The PCFC is a small community of staff, volunteers, and friends–to say that we are all reeling from the news of “Dr. Mac’s” death is an understatement. He was just at the PCFC last Tuesday (February 7) being his usual funny self, as well as a compassionate physician to the patients he saw and teacher to an aspiring medical student. Comedian, physician, teacher–all dimensions of his “bigger than life” personality, packed into 2 hours–this encapsulates the person who Tom McInerney was. We will miss him terribly.

Dr. McInerney has been volunteering at the PCFC since 2007. His regular night was the first Tuesday of every month, except if the first Tuesday happened to coincide with the Friends of the PCFC Golf Tournament. Then he might not show up and apologize for forgetting, saying he was “exhausted” from playing golf all day. We liked to kid him, saying that perhaps he was “exhausted” from the beer he enjoyed at the 19th hole? Whatever, all the other Tuesdays made up for it. Besides, playing in the tournament was another way of supporting the PCFC. He never stopped thinking about us!

Dr. McInerney was a superb clinician and diagnostician. While all patients at the PCFC are seen by appointment, as a physician he never quite knew what to expect on any given evening. He handled all cases with grace and kindness, even the ones that might be slightly puzzling, or challenging, or troubling. Caring for some of the most vulnerable people in our community was an honor in his eyes for him, and he told us this on a regular basis.

Even so, he was always funny. “Oh, I have a person with a rash tonight!” he’d say. “Maybe he has sporotrichosis! Is he a gardener?”

“I don’t know,” the nurse would reply. “It’s just a rash on his hands.”

“Ah, maybe this is my time. ‘Rose gardener’s disease’!”

It turns out that sporotrichosis (rose gardener’s disease) is a question on every single medical exam, at least according to Tom. It is fairly rare (less than 1 case per million, from the CDC) but this obscure condition is something all physicians have to know and be tested on. Tom always told us he was waiting to diagnose his first case. It never happened at the PCFC. Maybe now he is busy looking at the hands of angels, especially the ones who tend to the rose gardens in heaven.

Dr. Mac, we will miss you every single day.

Click here to read his complete obituary. There will be a celebration of Tom’s life at the First Parish Unitarian Universalist, 425 Congress Street on Thursday, February 16, 2023 at 2 pm. Donations in his memory may be made to the Portland Community Free Clinic and are gratefully accepted.

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