04/02/09 — Pomp and circumstance arrives in Faison

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Pomp and circumstance arrives in Faison

By Steve Herring
Published in News on April 2, 2009 1:46 PM

News-Argus Video Report

FAISON -- After waiting for nearly three hours, the throng of people shoehorned into the Goshen Medical Center waiting room got to hear Vice President Joe Biden sing the center's praises and tout the federal stimulus package -- and 10-year-old Daniel Bounds got an autograph and an invitation to tour the White House.

Daniel, the son of the center's CEO, Greg Bounds, was waiting with his father for the vice president's arrival Wednesday morning. Goshen is receiving more than $600,000 through the federal stimulus package and Biden's stop was intended to bring attention to the help the money is intended to bring to rural America.

For Daniel, however, it was a chance to meet the second most important figure in the country.

"I got his autograph and he told me that he was going to try and arrange a trip with us to go to the White House one day and show us where his office is," Daniel said after Biden's motorcade pulled away. "He is pretty nice. It was pretty cool."

His father confirmed the invitation.

"He has invited us to come to the White House, bring my family up and he is going to give us a tour and show us the Senate where he used to work and the vice presidential office," Greg Bounds said.

The visit was a big day for the little Duplin County town. People stood across U.S. 117 from GMC as Biden's motorcade, heralded by a motorcycle escort, pulled into the parking lot shortly before noon. When he left about an hour later, people who had gathered at a house next door to the center were waving and taking photos.

"He is just so personable," Bounds said, referring to Biden. "He talked to and greeted warmly and discussed personal and job issues with every person he met and encountered.

"It is very flattering as he said he called the secretary of agriculture and asked where is the best example of how to use federal money in a rural area and they picked Goshen Medical Center. That is very flattering. It is very reinforcing that we are doing things well."

Marlena Smith, a certified medical assistant, Lauren Eades, a physician's assistant, and Dr. Allyn Dambeck stood behind Biden as he addressed the audience.

At one point Biden placed his arm around Dambeck as he spoke about the importance of the strong doctor-patient relationships built at community health centers like Goshen.

"We were all real excited to hear about the stimulus recovery coming to Goshen because part of our mission statement is to serve the underserved and make health care more affordable," said Ms. Smith. "With those extra funds we will be able to do just that."

She said it felt "kind of surreal" to be standing with the vice president.

"It's kind of like, 'Is this really real here in Faison?'" she said. "My son and I were unable to go to Washington for the inauguration, but it seems Washington came right here to us in Faison today."

Wayne County Health Department Director Jim Roosen agreed about the importance of community health centers, but he also made it a point to emphasize to Biden and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack the importance of public health.

Roosen said was not disappointed by Biden's address. He said he only wanted to make his point, given the chance.

"No, this was a meeting about community health," he said. "So I am not disappointed. The main issue is that we already have a very good public health infrastructure in place. We need to look at augmenting that system in addition to the expansion of community health centers.