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Volunteers in Medicine:
A Culture of Caring

By Kristine Dwyer, Staff Writer

(Page 1 of 3)  
 

Dr. Randle of Mississippi spent his career as a physician in internal medicine until his retirement two years ago. During this time, Randle saw a growing need in his community to support the medical care needs of those who were uninsured due to self-employment, low-wage jobs and the high costs of medical insurance. He found that many individuals had no access to preventative care and were avoiding treatment at the point of serious illness, which ultimately led them to larger health crises. As a result, Randle and his colleagues, other retired professionals, churches, community leaders and local businesses in Oxford stepped forward to open a Volunteers in Medicine Clinic that offers quality care to those without health insurance.

Retirement has opened new doors for Dr. Randle and he has found many benefits in serving as a volunteer physician at the Oxford Medical Ministries Clinic. “It keeps my mind active and is a wonderful way to keep me engaged in life. I have a reason to get up in the morning. It is satisfying and very meaningful to continue caring for patients and to alleviate their distress in this gratifying environment. This is a great way to carry out what I was truly trained to do as a physician and it is liberating to practice without the barriers of paperwork, time-limited appointments and strict reimbursement guidelines. Everyone would agree that our health care system is in trouble and Volunteers in Medicine is an opportunity for citizens to try and rectify our health care needs, one community at a time.” Randle chooses to spend at least two days a week at the clinic plus one evening offering direct patient care, reviewing charts and lab work and writing prescriptions. He especially praises the dedication and compassionate spirit of the team of volunteers that make the Oxford Clinic a successful outreach program to those in need of care.
The current statistics are alarming; 48 million people in the U.S. have no medical insurance and another 25 million are underinsured, comprised mostly of middle and higher income families. As the country faces deep economic impacts in the new year, along with increased job losses, partnerships with established resources might be one solution to our healthcare crisis. The Volunteers in Medicine (VIM) program is an integral part of this nationwide solution.

Volunteers in Medicine  began in 1994 in Hilton Head, South Carolina. One out of three people on the island did not have access to health care. Simultaneously, a group of retired health care professionals were interested in continuing to utilize their medical skills in a part-time, volunteer capacity. The union of these two groups created the first VIM clinic, which is a nonprofit free clinic. The VIM model underscores the importance of using retired medical professionals to provide essential health care services in free community-based clinics for medically underserved and uninsured individuals.

 

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