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Volunteers In Medicine: How One Man Inspired Others

Updated on November 14, 2015

Volunteers In Medicine Mission Statement

"May we have eyes to see those rendered invisible and excluded; open arms and hearts to reach out and include; healing hands to touch their lives with love; and in the process heal ourselves."


Some Men Just Aren't Suited for Retirement

When Dr. Jack McConnell moved into his retirement dream house on Hilton Head Island in the early 1990s he was looking forward to playing golf on the island's famous courses, taking his wife to restaurants that overlooked some of the nation's most beautiful beaches and enjoying a life of leisure. But within a few months he was bored and plagued by the nagging question, "Is this all there is to retirement?"

He yearned to do something that had merit and value for others and that would nourish his soul, but the answer as to what that might be eluded him until he picked up a young black man named James who was walking by the side of the road during a heavy thunderstorm. When Dr. McConnell learned that James had 2 children, a pregnant wife who had no access to medical care, and that he had just been laid off from his construction job, he quickly helped James get another job but was unable to find medical care for his wife.


Dr. McConnell Finds a Problem to Solve

In his research to find medical care for an uninsured woman, Dr. McConnell learned some staggering statistics. Hilton Head Island had 30,000 year round residents many of whom were well off but 8500 were working poor with little or no access to medical care. Having recognized the huge number of people who needed help he thought, "Someone should look into this problem." It didn't take long before he realized that "someone" should be him!

Armed with a burning desire to help his less fortunate neighbors Dr. McConnell convinced 16 of his retired colleagues to help the community and they all began giving free immunization shots in a building donated by the town hospital.

Not satisfied they were doing enough, Dr. McConnell started to envision a clinic that would offer quality medical carefree of charge to all who needed it. He shared his vision with the original 16 who all said they wanted to help him, but were afraid they could get sued and lose their life savings. However, they all said they would back him if he could cut through the red tape to renew their medical licenses and raise enough money to cover the cost of malpractice insurance, equipment, supplies and a building to house the clinic. Behind his back the others had no faith that such a monumental task could be achieved but Dr. McConnell pressed forward like Don Quixote tilting at windmills.

Dr. McConnell Pursues His Passionate Dream

Inspirational writer, Colin P. Sisson once said, "What we vividly imagine, ardently desire, enthusiastically act upon, must inevitably come to pass," and that quote perfectly describes what happened next. It took several years of hard work and artful persuasion, but eventually Dr. McConnell got the town to donate land, architects to draw up plans, builders to donate materials, and an insurance company to provide malpractice insurance. He also convinced state legislatures to pass a bill creating a special volunteer license for clinic physicians and nurses.

In 1993 he founded the non-profit Volunteers In Medicine (VIM) clinic that now has 700 staff members including retired Md's, nurses, dentists, social workers, chiropractors and lay persons who all volunteer their time and provide a total of 31,000 patient visits per year.

In addition to being fully staffed by volunteers, this clinic stands out because it is based on an ethical standard of practice in medicine that was once common but is becoming less common due to the large amount of paperwork and bureaucracy non-retired medical professionals must deal with. The philosophy of the VIM clinic is built around a "Culture of Caring," and the belief that how people are treated during a visit to the clinic is as important as the medical care they receive. The "Culture of Caring" seeks to heal physical conditions but also the injury caused by bias, prejudice and indifference.

Dr. McConnell is justifiably proud of the work that the volunteers do and says, "What we have is a group of talented medical professionals who are now doing what they have always wanted to do-- work in a bureaucrat-free, hassle-free environment. I never advertised or recruited a single soul. Volunteers tell me they have never felt better, they take less medicine, their blood pressure is under control and they are more contented with their lives than they have ever been."

VIM: Model For Clinics Throughout USA

Word of Dr. McConnell's innovative health care model spread and he started receiving many calls from doctors and nurses around the country asking how they could start a clinic in their own community so Dr. McConnell created the Volunteers in Medicine Institute to provide help and support to other retired medical workers seeking to start VIM clinics.

To date, the VIM Institute has helped open 70 plus clinics in 25 states. To read more about the amazing VIM clinics or find out how you can volunteer at or help initiate a clinic near you log onto the Volunteers In Medicine website at:

How Will The Affordable Care Act Effect VIM?

The recent passage of the Affordable Care Act (commonly referred to as Obamacare) will be phased in over the next few years and though it will provide relief to some of the people who are currently uninsured, the escalating cost of health insurance and medical care, cutbacks in Medicaid and a decrease in the number of physicians choosing primary care will all contribute to the need for VIM clinics to remain open for many years to come. During this time of transition and great change, it is felt that the clinics will help provide a safety net for those who might otherwise fall through the cracks.

VIM Poll

Do you have a Volunteers In Medicine Clinic in your state?

See results


Submit a Comment

  • Happyboomernurse profile imageAUTHOR

    Gail Sobotkin 

    6 years ago from South Carolina

    Hi Robert Erich,

    Thanks so much for your inspiring comment and for the vote up and sharing this article with others.

    As you put it so well in your hub about sharing, doing so is truly a win-win situation.

  • Robert Erich profile image

    Robert Erich 

    6 years ago from California

    This is an incredible and inspirational story! When you read something like this you are motivated to go out and make a difference yourself. You are a great writer and I can see how one of your articles was selected for Hub of the Day. Keep writing! Voted up and shared.

  • Happyboomernurse profile imageAUTHOR

    Gail Sobotkin 

    6 years ago from South Carolina

    Hi Rolly A Chabot,

    Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving such a lovely comment.

    People who wish to make a difference generally do make a difference and as Dr. Mc Connell's example shows, it's easy to think that "someone" should help but the really great leap is when we make the effort to be the one to step up to the plate instead of waiting for someone else to do so.

    Sending Hub Hugs Across the Miles

  • Rolly A Chabot profile image

    Rolly A Chabot 

    6 years ago from Alberta Canada

    Wonderful article and an inspiration to read. Love the heart of anyone who wishes to make a difference in life.

    Hugs from Canada

  • Happyboomernurse profile imageAUTHOR

    Gail Sobotkin 

    6 years ago from South Carolina

    Welcome James Love,

    So glad you enjoyed it. There is more information about how Dr. McConnell started the Volunteers in Medicine clinic on the clinic website at

    Thanks for taking time to leave a comment.

  • profile image

    james love 

    6 years ago

    this is a fantastic story a would love to learn more of this great biograph.....y

  • Happyboomernurse profile imageAUTHOR

    Gail Sobotkin 

    7 years ago from South Carolina

    Welcome Dream On,

    Glad you found this hub inspiring. Thanks for taking time to leave a comment. Your feedback is greatly appreciated.

  • DREAM ON profile image


    7 years ago

    What an inspiration to carry on where others dared to go.Thanks for sharing and making a difference.

  • Happyboomernurse profile imageAUTHOR

    Gail Sobotkin 

    7 years ago from South Carolina

    Welcome Vocalcoach and thanks so much for the lovely feedback and for sharing your own experience with volunteering. I've never heard of "Contact Care" so I was glad that you explained what it is and who it helps. Keeping the hotline open 24/7 including holidays, all through the use of volunteers, is an amazing achievement and speaks highly of the caliber of people that were manning those phones, including yourself.

    You are so right in saying that when we serve others who face challenges and hardships it helps us put our own problems into perspective.

    Thanks for the vote up. It's greatly appreciated.

  • vocalcoach profile image

    Audrey Hunt 

    7 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

    Dr. McConnell is a true humanitarian. And so are all those that donate their skill and time toward this very needed cause. A very inspirational hub. I hope everyone reads this at one time or another.

    Through this hub on volunteering in medicine, I'm sure you have inspired others to be more aware of the great need to donate time and knowledge, with the hope that in so doing, others will benefit.

    I once worked with an organization called "Contact Care", which is a hot-line for troubled teens as well as adults plagued with mental illness. We volunteered our time to "listen" to callers who were desperate to talk to someone.

    Our hours were 24/7 including all holidays. I found it a privilege to serve. I also learned how small my problems are. Thank you, Gail for writing this hub. I proudly voted UP and across the board.

  • Happyboomernurse profile imageAUTHOR

    Gail Sobotkin 

    7 years ago from South Carolina

    Hi Eiddwen,

    So glad you found Dr. McConnell's efforts to make his dream of this special clinic a reality interesting and inspiring. I was truly amazed at his ability to cut through the beaureaucratic red tape in order to make it happen.

    I so appreciate your support and thank you for looking back on some of my old hubs.

    Blessings my dear friend,


  • Eiddwen profile image


    7 years ago from Wales

    Hi Gail,

    I think I will remember this hub about Dr. McConnell for a very long time to come.

    He is a treasure indeed and so much needed in today's world.

    You've told us all about him beautifully and I must vote across the board plus bookmark as well.

    I am having a much needed catch-up with reading hubs today and I am enjoying myself immensely.

    I am going to stay here at yours Gail for a while longer to see what other gems I've missed.

    Heer's to a very long time to come of sharing our hubs on here .

    Take care my dear friend,


  • Happyboomernurse profile imageAUTHOR

    Gail Sobotkin 

    7 years ago from South Carolina

    Welcome, Auntie D, and thanks for taking time to read my hub and leave a comment. You are right, too many can't afford health insurance and are falling between the cracks.

    The original VIM clinic in Hilton Head has been the inspiration and model for more than 70 VIM clinics that have opened up in 25 states, each one started by a single person or small group of several core volunteers who have been inspired by Dr. McConnel's shining example.

  • Auntie D profile image

    Auntie D 

    7 years ago from California

    Very informative. There are many places that could use a Dr. McConnell and I wish a VIM Clinic was in an area close by. Too many can't afford health insurance and fall between the cracks...

  • Happyboomernurse profile imageAUTHOR

    Gail Sobotkin 

    7 years ago from South Carolina

    Welcome toknowinfo,

    I'm so glad you enjoyed this hub and appreciate your rating it up.

    Your comments really brightened my day. Thanks for the positive feedback.

  • toknowinfo profile image


    7 years ago

    Such interesting information that I never knew. Thank you for enlightening me. Excellent hub and well written. Thanks for such a valuable article. Rated up and awesome.

  • Happyboomernurse profile imageAUTHOR

    Gail Sobotkin 

    7 years ago from South Carolina

    Thanks Sunnie Day for your kind words and for the vote up. I agree that coordinated volunteer efforts such as this could help solve medical access problems in many communities.

  • profile image

    Sunnie Day 

    7 years ago

    Beautiful Hub. I would love to volunteer for something such as this. I could see it solving so many problems in our community. Look forward to finding out if there is one near. Thank you for all the information and wonderful story.

    Sunnie Voted up for sure!

  • Denise Handlon profile image

    Denise Handlon 

    7 years ago from North Carolina

    Thanks Gail. It's nice to hear that. :)

  • Happyboomernurse profile imageAUTHOR

    Gail Sobotkin 

    7 years ago from South Carolina

    I admire your drive and spirit, Denise. You seem to get so much done despite a stressful job, and yet your heart is still in everything you do.

    Thanks so much for all your support, it really means a lot to me.

  • Denise Handlon profile image

    Denise Handlon 

    7 years ago from North Carolina

    Gail-how exciting. This is the first I've heard of it (and so close to me). I am so glad to know this-you've done a wonderful job bringing the information to the community. I jotted some notes and will investigate whether NC has one. I voted in your poll - 'I don't know', so I'm looking forward to finding out. Voted your hub up.

  • Happyboomernurse profile imageAUTHOR

    Gail Sobotkin 

    8 years ago from South Carolina

    Hi Jill of alltrades,

    You are welcome. I found the fact that your mother still writes poetry at 90 admirable and inspiring! As more people continue doing worthwhile things no matter what their age, I'm hopeful that our society's image of senior citizens will improve.

    Thanks for taking time to read my hub and leave a comment.

  • jill of alltrades profile image

    jill of alltrades 

    8 years ago from Philippines

    What an inspiring story! Dr. McConnell and his group are admirable! I wish there are more people like them.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Happyboomernurse profile imageAUTHOR

    Gail Sobotkin 

    8 years ago from South Carolina

    Thanks Peggy W,

    Fortunately, VIM clinics are starting to spread throughout the US which is why a training program was developed for those who want to start a clinic in their own region.

    Malpractice insurance was a huge issue and it amazed me that Dr. McConnell was able to achieve even that hurdle.

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 

    8 years ago from Houston, Texas

    What a wonderful man and a great idea of his that has taken wings. I was unaware of it (VIM) but hope that it expands far and wide to help many people in need. By getting the malpractice insurance paid...I am sure that many medical people would be delighted to help those in need without risking everything that they own.

    Great and uplifting hub!

  • Happyboomernurse profile imageAUTHOR

    Gail Sobotkin 

    8 years ago from South Carolina

    Hi Ingenira,

    Sounds like your heart is in the right place, as is the heart of those who are Volunteers In Medicine.

    Thanks for the kind words about this hub. They are greatly appreciated.

  • Ingenira profile image


    8 years ago

    Amazing story, a great encouragement for people who have retired. You have presented it so well, it's a great encouragement for me. I think I'd like to do something like that when I have retired. Helping people without expecting returns.

  • Happyboomernurse profile imageAUTHOR

    Gail Sobotkin 

    8 years ago from South Carolina

    Ah Kimho39, You made my day. Thanks so much for leaving such a lovely comment. It is greatly appreciated. There is always so much negative news in the world, but when you look for good (as I know you do, yet in your line of work, as in nursing, it can be challenging) it's amazing what one finds. I was blessed to be in Hilton Head Island a few years ago during the annual fundraiser for the Volunteers in Medicine Clinic and learned the story of its founding. My hope was that our fellow hubbers would find Dr. McConnell's story as inspiring as I did, and so far that seems to be the case.

  • kimh039 profile image

    Kim Harris 

    8 years ago

    At some point as I was reading, I was thinking, "How delightful!" Delightful is a word I use very sparingly. The Dr's actions are indeed praiseworthy, but what I was finding so delightful is how you found such an interesting and inspiring topic, and the way you presented it. I was starving for delight and you served up a platter of delight! Thank you, happyboomernurse!

  • Happyboomernurse profile imageAUTHOR

    Gail Sobotkin 

    8 years ago from South Carolina

    Hi Treasuresofheaven,

    Thanks so much for your kind words of encouragement. It's greatly appreciated. Glad you enjoyed this hub.

  • Treasuresofheaven profile image

    Sima Ballinger 

    8 years ago from Michigan

    Excellent Hub Happyboomernurse. You are doing a fantastic job. I enjoyed this history lesson on Volunteers In Medicine.

  • Happyboomernurse profile imageAUTHOR

    Gail Sobotkin 

    8 years ago from South Carolina

    Welcome Annmackiemiller,

    It's always great to meet a fellow nurse. I appreciate your feedback on this hub. I'm heading over to your profile now.

  • annmackiemiller profile image


    8 years ago from Bingley Yorkshire England

    great lens about a wonderful man - thanks for sharing it

    ps - saw your name and just HAD to check it out from one boomer nurse to another!

  • Happyboomernurse profile imageAUTHOR

    Gail Sobotkin 

    8 years ago from South Carolina

    Hi Katiem.

    Yes it is good for the soul, as is anything that helps make a positive difference in this world such as your beautiful hubs on love.

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving an insightful comment.

    It's greatly appreciated.

  • katiem2 profile image


    8 years ago from I'm outta here

    I'm with Jack, retirement just isn't an option and volunteering is so good for the soul of all involved. Great to make a difference and learn about the amazing ways others do. Well done! :)Katie

  • Happyboomernurse profile imageAUTHOR

    Gail Sobotkin 

    8 years ago from South Carolina

    Hi Bel,

    Yes it is. We hear so many bad things in the news and I make a conscious effort to also seek out information about good things that people are doing to help each other. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

    Hope you have a wonderful New Year.

  • Bel Marshall profile image

    Bel Marshall 

    8 years ago from Michigan

    It's nice to see that there are people who do care even when they aren't required to care.

  • Happyboomernurse profile imageAUTHOR

    Gail Sobotkin 

    8 years ago from South Carolina

    Hi Prasetio30,

    Sorry it took so long to respond to your comment. My computer has been down.

    Thanks for your kind comment. Yes. Volunteering is a blessing for those who do it, as well as those who are helped. May you be blessed with much love and peace in your life.

  • Happyboomernurse profile imageAUTHOR

    Gail Sobotkin 

    8 years ago from South Carolina

    Cathylynn99, Sorry it took me so long to respond to your comment, my computer has been down.

    I haven't volunteered at VIM, but have done other volunteer work at health fairs and schools. Sounds like you have done some very admirable volunteering.

    Thanks for taking time to read my hub and leave a comment. It's very much appreciated.

  • prasetio30 profile image


    8 years ago from malang-indonesia

    Nice information. I learn much from you. Become a volunteer was needed a big heart and not everyone want to take this chance. They were blessed. Thank you very much. Love and peace!


  • cathylynn99 profile image


    8 years ago from northeastern US

    great stuff. do you volunteer? i record the newspaper for a service folks who are blind can access just by calling. i used to also teach english to immigrants before i got married. yes, volunteering is rewarding.

  • Happyboomernurse profile imageAUTHOR

    Gail Sobotkin 

    8 years ago from South Carolina

    Welcome Schoolmarm,

    Yes, he's been on the news at times and he is very inspiring. Thanks for stopping by.

  • schoolmarm profile image


    8 years ago from Florida

    What an inspiring hub! I have seen Dr. McConnell on the news - he's an amazing man.

  • Happyboomernurse profile imageAUTHOR

    Gail Sobotkin 

    8 years ago from South Carolina

    Hi BobbiRant,

    Spoken like a social worker with a BIG heart! I was amazed that Jack McConnell was actually able to change and then utilize the law to create his free clinic and in this case he even got malpractice insurance for the retired volunteers. And he's done it all without any taxpayer assistance. (People can make donations, but the clinic isn't subsidized by the government). Even patients and their families donate manual services such as the cleaning of the building. The lesson here to me is that unselfish dedication and giving by one man triggered massive unselfishness in so many and that thinking "outside the box" and fighting back against beaureaucracy can yield positive results.

  • BobbiRant profile image


    8 years ago from New York

    I believe all medical people, who truly believe in more than money, should be offering free care to those who need it. Unfortunately it is not always possible due to red tape and the blocking by insurance companies. Great hub about a truly great and unselfish person.

  • Happyboomernurse profile imageAUTHOR

    Gail Sobotkin 

    8 years ago from South Carolina

    Hi RJ,

    I'm sure it is the same man. Dr. McConnell has been interviewed on national news shows and has also attended many of the openings and fundraisers for other VIM clinics in different states. One thing I didn't write in this hub but that you'll appreciate is that he was raised in a large family and his father instilled values in the 7 kids by asking them at dinner each night, "And what have you done for someone today?" Some ministers have written sermons around that question using Dr. McConnell as an example of how effective it is in inspiring kids to help others.

  • Happyboomernurse profile imageAUTHOR

    Gail Sobotkin 

    8 years ago from South Carolina

    Ashantina:) I totally agree. It was truly amazing that Dr. McConnell's passionate faith in his dream moved mountains and once those mountains were moved it opened a path for an army of passionate, inspired volunteers to make his dream a reality. So glad you were inspired by this story and thanks for taking time to leave a comment.

    RNMSN:) It is exciting! Before I learned about this man I kept thinking in the back of my mind that us baby boomers will be retiring from our jobs but not from meaningful pursuits. I pray that many in our generation will continue to be a positive force in our communities long after retirement. Yes, it is a shame that so many in medicine are unable to practice in a "culture of caring," which is why burnout is so common.

    Judicastro:) I've vacationed on Hilton Head for many years but only learned of VIM in 2009 when I was able to attend their annual fundraiser at the Shelter Cove Mall. Chefs from the finest restaurants prepare their signature soups and desserts and the attendees vote for #1. It's a delicious fun event, only costs $10 and all proceeds go to VIM. Glad you were touched by this hub and took the time to leave feedback. I appreciate it.

  • Reynold Jay profile image

    Reynold Jay 

    8 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan

    I think I saw something like this on the news a while back. I wonder if this is the same person. Another great story.

  • Judicastro profile image


    8 years ago from birmingham, Alabama

    I was touched by this hub and thankful that 20 years ago this dear Dr. had the drive to make this happen. I am very familiar with Hilton Head, but must admit this is the first I've heard of VIM. Thank you so much for bringing it to our attention.

  • RNMSN profile image

    Barbara Bethard 

    8 years ago from Tucson, Az

    Isn't this exiting!! What a caring and truly gifted man!! If only mediine could go bak to that mission of "culture of caring"!!

  • Ashantina profile image


    8 years ago

    Wow. I admire the sheer courage of his conviction and that he had the gusto to follow through on his idea. Everything starts with a thought... Inspiring.


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