The History of Volunteers in Medicine America
Volunteers in Medicine America (VIM America) began in Hilton Head, South Carolina. In the early 1990s, one out of three people who lived on Hilton Head Island had no access to health care, a rate twice the national average. At the same time, retired medical personnel including physicians, nurses, and dentists expressed an interest in finding a way to continue practicing their profession on a voluntary, part-time basis to help those without access to medical care.
In 1994, under the leadership of founder Dr. Jack McConnell, these two groups were brought together to open the first VIM clinic. Word spread nationally about the success of the Hilton Head VIM clinic. In response to requests for assistance in replicating the VIM Model, Dr. McConnell created a separate nonprofit to assist interested communities in launching their own VIM clinic. Today, this organization is known as Volunteers in Medicine America.
Expert VIM America staff provide individualized assistance to developing free clinics and established sites that wish to join the network. For both groups, the emphasis is on upholding the VIM Model. Developing sites receive guidance through each phase of the clinic development process, from the initial feasibility study through the opening of the clinic. Expansion sites that are aligned with the VIM Model receive assistance and educational resources to assist them in joining the Volunteers in Medicine network.
Dr. Helmer, volunteer at VIM of Cape May County and the Parker Family Health Center
The Volunteers in Medicine (VIM) Model promotes a "Circle of Caring"
Being inclusive and welcoming to all is the foundation of the VIM Model. The Circle of Caring” recognizes the strengths of those in need and respects their dignity. It prompts the idea that the manner in which people are treated during a visit to a VIM clinic is as important as the medical care they receive. Perhaps most importantly, it recognizes that those providing care are also receiving care from those they serve. It is encapsulated in the Volunteers in Medicine Vision Statement:
May we have eyes to see those who are 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.
Each VIM clinic is community-owned and supported, providing many benefits to its members:
- VIM clinics provide primary care services to the medically underserved and their families
- Hospitals benefit from a decrease in non-urgent care for patients visiting their emergency rooms and unnecessary admissions related to untreated chronic conditions
- Medical volunteers are able to practice pure medicine without the business of medicine
- Non-medical and community volunteers are able to support their neighbors in a nurturing, supportive environment
Patients are treated as friends and neighbors, not as diseases or numbers
Interim Chief Executive Officer
Dr. Ray Cox
VIM Hilton Head
Free Clinic of the Meridian
VIM of the Cascades
VIM of Southern New Jersey
Bergen Volunteer Medical Initiative