VOLUNTEERS IN MEDICINE CELEBRATES 25 YEARS
“The underinsured and uninsured members of our community provide many services for us. They work under conditions which are oftentimes less than ideal. Their health status is questionable at best. They are interwoven in the very fabric of the community we love to call home; we need to take care of them.
“We need to demonstrate our respect and affection for them by providing them, and their families, at least a basic level of health care. We can do that easily by using an untapped resource, of which each community has a generous supply — retired medical professionals.
Tapping into the retired community brings unexpected benefits not only for the patient population but also for the retirees themselves. It provides them with an outlet for their years of experience and commitment to caring for others. We know that the physicians, nurses and dentists are traditionally thought of as the caregivers and the patients as the care receivers.
But every day, many times a day, that relationship is turned upside down at VIM on Hilton Head Island, and it is impossible to say who receives the most from the exchange.
In fact, everyone is a winner — the patient and their families, the physicians, nurses and the entire community that we love to call home.” — Dr. Jack McConnell, founder of Volunteers in Medicine
- 1992: After a year and plenty of persistence, Dr. Jack persuades the South Carolina Legislature to create a special license for doctors volunteering in not-for-profit clinics, and receives full malpractice insurance from South Carolina’s Joint Underwriting Association for only $5,000 a year.
- 1993: Volunteers in Medicine is incorporated and the first patient visits the VIM clinic, located at Hilton Head Hospital. The first clinic was for immunizations only. In its first year, VIM records 1,000 patient visits.
- 1994: The Town of Hilton Head donates land, area residents contribute office and medical equipment, and patients volunteer their weekends to work on the building that would become the clinic. On June 9, 1994, the current clinic building was complete.
- 2004: VIM’s patient population grows beyond the walls of its clinic. With help from several individuals and foundations, VIM purchases the McConnell Building to house VIM staff and its mental health team.
- 2005: The VIM diabetes team begins community outreach and VIM agrees to provide medical rotations for students at MUSC.
- 2006: VIM begins converting to an electronic medical records system and a patient navigator joins the staff to help patients understand the health care system.
- 2007: VIM begins providing free mammograms and treatment to underserved women. Through a partnership with SouthCoast Health Imaging, VIM now provides about 800 screening and diagnostic screenings annually, significantly decreasing findings of advanced breast cancer among VIM’s patients. VIM also adds a weight loss clinic to its diabetes and hypertension programs.
- 2008: VIM celebrates its 15th birthday.
- 2011: The VIM dental clinic opens, handling 6,000 patient visits annually.
- 2013: VIM launches a women’s heart health initiative after discovering that 97 percent of its female patients older than 35 either had hypertension or were at risk of developing it within seven years.
- 2015: VIM launches a wellness program to encourage wellness and prevention.
- 2017: VIM is featured on NBC’s “Nightly News” in the “Inspiring America” segment, which concludes each nightly broadcasts.
- 2018: Dr. Jack dies in February at the age of 93. VIM celebrates its 25th anniversary. Today, about 650 volunteers help the clinic serve close to 30,000 patient visits annually across 23 medical specialties and five disease management clinics. The VIM Hilton Head Island model has been replicated in 96 other free and charitable clinics nationwide. With a budget of about $2.3 million, VIM provides close to $13 million in health care and conservatively saves local hospitals $2.5 million in uncompensated emergency visits.
The mission of the Volunteers in Medicine Clinic is to understand and serve the health and wellness needs of the medically underserved families who live or work on Hilton Head Island and Daufuskie islands.
May we have eyes to see those rendered invisible and excluded, Open arms and hearts to reach out and include them, Healing hands to touch their lives with love, and in the process, heal ourselves.