Interview portions with Dr. Stovall are taken from an independent magazine, published in 2014, celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Community Care Pharmacy, started by the late Dr. Eugene Butler, and the Lafayette Medical Center, founded by Dr. Stovall. The magazine was a project of Fort Wayne Ink Spot Managing Editor William Bryant Rozier.
Dr. Alfred “Al” Stovall, 81, passed away on February 18, 2018, at his son’s home in Roanoke, Indiana. A graduate of Fisk University and Howard Medical School, Dr. Stovall opened and operated a family practice here in Fort Wayne, after serving in the military.
Dr. Stovall will be remembered for his years of community service, best exemplified in his founding of the Lafayette Medical Center, in 1993, at the corner of Lafayette and Pontiac.
ORIGINAL 2014 INTERVIEW BEGINS NOW
Dr. Stovall, on the idea for the Lafayette Medical Center: “The idea of [the] building came about because we had 3 or 4 black doctors in the city and no one had a decent office to accommodate all of the services we could provide, from one doctor to the other, from lab services to pharmacy.”
The building opened 20 years ago, but we started the process 24 years ago. It took a while to do. There were certain people in the history of the building who were instrumental in helping. Like Chris Payne, a developer who worked for Lincoln Life. He was very good with financing and assisted with the physical development of the building.
Gene Butler and St. Joseph Hospital, here since the day we opened, were also instrumental.
I myself am retired. I decided to retire so I can take care of my wife. She has Parkinson’s disease and requires 24/7 care. Community Home Health Care (on the 2nd floor of the Lafayette Medical Center) provides my wife with home health care services.
And I was better apt at taking care of her; I let the younger physicians take care of the patients. It’s worked out; the building worked out well. It's been very profitable. But I’m thinking about turning it over to a young, aggressive, entrepreneur-type minority person. Or majority.
When you started the building, didn’t you want to bring in visiting specialists?
Initially we had a couple of suites left open for a couple of specialists, but they didn’t want to come into the inner city, not even for a day. Some of them didn’t feel it was worthwhile to bring a staff. And they were all doing well. But they didn’t have our mission statement: Take care of our own people. Then we ended up taking 50/50: half of our patients are Black, half are Latino or White. We had physical therapy here for a while. X-Ray for a while. We still have a lab.
What were some of your earliest challenges trying to start Lafayette Medical?
Financing. I make the joke that the hardest things I’ve done in my life were the times I spent in Vietnam, The March On Washington and the sit-ins. (And getting non-recourse financing from Summit Bank to do this building.) We struggled, but we got it done. (A non-recourse loan is only repaid from the profits of a project.)
People were elated that we were spending millions of dollars in the inner city. There wasn’t anything like it. There were a couple other black entrepreneurs that had owned successful businesses but those ventures didn’t directly effect the population like a medical office did.
We had support. We built this entire building without a fence around the property. And we had no graffiti...not one brick was stolen from the site while we were building it.
Today...it's a beautiful building. In the last year, I’ve spent close to a $100,000 to bring it to pristine condition. Because after 20 years, all of the guarantees have worn out. So stuff like the elevators, the heating system...we did that stuff this year. It’s good to today as it was when it was built.
What kind of doctors did you approach for the project? Were there certain specialties you wanted?
We approached the people who had enough forethought to join. There was a lot of doctors that probably could have come, black and white. But we picked people like Gene Butler who had the education and the forethought to think of what he could do for the inner city and not just stay with the job that he had, which was an extremely good job.
Do you see yourself as a role model?
A role model means people want to do what you do. But any kid who gets out of high school, gets out of college, can do what I did. It’s no big thing. The times were right to get the building financed. Now the kids I delivered see me as a role model because I love them. I took care of them...some of them for 20, 25 years after I delivered them. So they were role models to me cause they stayed close to me, they came to me, which means their families were happy.
Can you make a guess as to the number of patients the Lafayette Medical Center has seen in its 20 years?
I couldn’t possibly. (Laughs.) Someone said we take care of around 40,000 patients in this area. We take care of people in Ohio too. Gene has people who come all the way from Ohio to get medicine. Because he's a pharmacist that cares. The same is true for our podiatrist, Benny Fair. We have people who are dedicated to our patients.
ORIGINAL 2014 INTERVIEW ENDS
Dr. Alfred Stovall is survived by two sons, Dr. Andre' (Maxine) Stovall of Roanoke, Ind., and Alfred (Susan) Stovall Jr. of Angola, Ind.; one daughter, Dina Stovall (Arnold) Spain of Myrtle Beach, S.C.; two grandchildren, Alfred Stovall III and Lauren Spain; and a few cousins. Alfred was also preceded in death by one son, Vincent Stovall.
Dr. Stovall's memorial service was held on March 3, 2018 at Pilgram Baptist Church. Memorials and donations can be made to the Allen County S.P.C.A., 4914 S. Hanna St., Fort Wayne, IN 46806.
Information taken from obituary listing published in the Fort Wayne Newspapers.
Photos: Dr. Stovall, at the Lafayette Medical Center, 2013 [Photo: WBR]
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