Volunteerism brings docs big benefits

“I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.”

What German/French theologian, philosopher and physician Albert Schweitzer refers to above is the essence of many faculties — the drive to help others. For those under healthcare’s employ, Schweitzer’s happiness should practically be a guarantee. After all, the industry functions on serving those who need aid most: the sick.

But for many physicians, providers, and even Schweitzer himself, the pursuit to assist often goes beyond the contract, beyond the 9-to-5, into the sacred realms of volunteerism and community service. What’s more, venturing forth into these shared spaces, off the clock, reaps rewards both personal and professional.

“There is research to support the notion that the more active physicians are, the more visible they will be,” Drew Stevens, PhD, author, practice management specialist and president and CEO of Stevens Consulting Group, told PhysBizTech.

“Items such as community service, volunteerism and presentations are just some tactics that can be used to become more visible within the community” and therein, more accessible to potential patients, Stevens added.

For active physician volunteer Dmitry Kiyatkin, MD, spending off-time at a local clinic treating underinsured and uninsured patients instills a sense of professional purpose as well as a keen insight into the often under-disclosed workings of the medical field.

“It is always very personally rewarding to help patients,” said Kiyatkin in a Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center Doctors’ Day interview.

“This experience heightens my awareness of healthcare disparities, as well as available low-cost primary care services around the city. Many Wald Clinic patients had fallen out of the healthcare system due to lack of insurance. Working at the Wald Clinic is an opportunity not only to treat patients, but, more fundamentally, to reintroduce them to the healthcare system and connect them with low-cost primary care providers,” he elaborated.

During times of shortage, spare moments for doctors can be slim. For this reason, physician-interest organizations have been volleying heavily for retiring/retired physicians to volunteer as a means to keep their toes comfortably in the game. The American Medical Association provides an extensive list of resources for senior physicians to consider when opting to volunteer; the American College of Physicians also provides tips and links to healthcare volunteer opportunities and organizations for physicians of all statuses to consider.