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Volunteers In Medicine: How One Man Inspired Others
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:
- VIM Clinic - Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
The Volunteers In Medicine (VIM) Clinic provides free medical, dental and mental health services to families and individuals who otherwise have no access to health care on Hilton Head Island.
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.