The Search for Answers
In the early 1990s, many genetic disorders in Northeast Ohio’s rural Amish community went undiagnosed and untreated. Some families took their special needs children to large medical centers in Cleveland to see if the doctors there could determine the causes of their children’s severe conditions.
The Amish children often attracted great interest from doctors at the major hospitals because of their rare conditions. Traditional hospitals had never seen or treated these conditions before. Although they worked closely with the doctors at these major medical centers, parents grew frustrated because the hospitals couldn’t provide any conclusive answers.
The Path That Paved The Way
In 1998, a group of Amish mothers in our community learned about Dr. Holmes Morton, who had recently started the Clinic for Special Children in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Dr. Morton treated Amish patients with conditions that sounded very similar to those of the children of the Ohio mothers.
The group decided to visit Dr. Morton in the hope that he would be able to help their children. That same year, four Amish families and two non-Amish companions traveled to Lancaster to meet with Dr. Morton. Each family brought their youngest child.
The families spent two days with Dr. Morton, who brought in specialists to see the children. Near the end of the visit, Dr. Morton shared his observations with the families, saying that the Ohio children were similar, but different, to those in Lancaster. He advised the group that his clinic was not the right place to treat their children, and that they should look for treatments back home.
That important visit with Dr. Morton was the beginning of the path that paved the way to a new clinic in our community.
Putting the Pieces Together
When the group came home from their trip to Lancaster, they started discussions about a new clinic that could serve their special needs children.
Aided by non-Amish members, the group met at the home of Jonas Yoder, who had helped another local medical facility get started. During the meeting, the group decided to form a steering committee to organize and coordinate their efforts. That evening, a hat belonging to one of the Amish men was passed around, and $50 was collected to get the work started.
When Geauga Hospital learned about the possible new community clinic, they gave their full support. Other hospitals and organizations followed, with Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, Metzenbaum Center, Middlefield Care Center and Geauga County Health Department also giving their support. The pieces started to fall into place.
In April 1999, members of the steering committee made a presentation to the Amish bishops. After the presentation and subsequent meetings with individual bishops, the project was accepted and the bishops gave their consent to proceed.
In May 1999, the Amish and non-Amish members of the steering committee joined with others to form a board of trustees and establish our 501(c)(3) non-profit status. Around the same time, our new non-profit corporation received a grant from The Cleveland Foundation.
Creating a Vision
The trustees envisioned a center that would be a gathering place; a place of love, compassion and caring where children and families are respected; a place where people take the time to listen and share; a place of faith and hope.
The center would offer personalized, affordable care, as well as genetics research and additional services including immunization clinics, nutrition counseling and educational services.
The trustees’ guiding vision was that the center would:
- Focus on working with special needs children
- Have a staff who, working for our community and families, would provide the specific services and treatments required
- Operate in a manner sensitive to the beliefs and culture of our community
- Provide in one location the most effective medical treatment for special needs children
- Give staff the time and means to thoroughly examine all details about each child with each family
- Look first to natural remedies and treatments
In November of 1999, the Das Deutsch Center for Special Needs Children (now known as DDC Clinic – Center for Special Needs Children) was established.
The Search for the Right Doctor
With several hundred thousand dollars raised for the new center and a guiding vision in place, the steering committee began searching for the right doctor – someone who was an excellent pediatrician and researcher, someone who could treat patients and work to find answers.
One of the physicians who was interviewed was Dr. Heng Wang. On the day of his interview, Dr. Wang met with special needs children, Amish families, volunteers, community members, therapists and doctors.
When the day ended, the Amish families were convinced that Dr. Wang’s heart was pure, and that he was the right doctor for their children. The therapists and doctors also felt warmly toward him, and agreed that his pediatric training and research background made him the ideal choice.
In 2002, Dr. Wang became the medical director at Das Deutsch Center for Special Needs Children and has been serving our patient families ever since.
DDC Clinic Today
Das Deutsch Center for Special Needs Children had no building when Dr. Wang joined the clinic, so he worked out of his car, making more than 400 house calls to his patients. After his first year, our clinic bought a small house which operated as our center for a number of years, enabling Dr. Wang to see patients in a medical home setting.
DDC Clinic – Center for Special Needs Children, as we’re now known, moved into our present home in 2009. Today, our clinic focuses on comprehensive patient care, research and education. With our onsite molecular diagnostics genetics laboratory, we provide high quality and affordable testing. We’ve served more than 1,500 patient families in 35 states and several foreign countries, and we’ve been recognized internationally for our state-of-the-art genetic research.