The NAFC Volunteers in Medicine Program helps communities start, develop and expand clinics. In 2021, the Volunteers in Medicine clinic development program moved to the NAFC after the national organization Volunteers in Medicine America closed.
Through the NAFC’s Volunteers in Medicine Program, 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 can receive assistance and educational resources to assist them in expanding their services and reach.
Benefits of working with the NAFC Volunteers in Medicine Program:
- A demonstrated approach to developing robust free clinics, over 90 clinics since 1996.
- Free, customized one-on-one consulting with NAFC VIM personnel over 12-18 months of clinic development. Staff will work through each phase of clinic development with you.
- Access to checklists, best practices, templates, tip sheets, and other resources
- Links to other clinics, experts, and organizations.
- If needed, a preliminary site visit to your clinic to assist with planning, and a final site visit to assess the clinic’s readiness to open. A detailed report follows each site visit to identify the next steps (Travel expenses are the responsibility of the clinic’s Steering Committee).
- New clinics are eligible to apply for a $25,000 Family Medicine Cares Grant through a partnership with the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) Foundation.
- Please note: NAFC membership is required in order to participate in the VIM program.
Start a Clinic
Interested in developing a free health care clinic? Through the NAFC’s Volunteers in Medicine Program, we can help guide you through the clinic development process, providing direction, inspiration, and support along the way.
Ready to get started?
First, check to see if there is already an existing Free/Charitable Clinic in your area by visiting our Find a Clinic page.
You can also review the Legal and Operational Guide for Free Medical Clinics to get a better understanding of what opening a clinic may entail. This guide, authored by the American Health Lawyers Association and funded by the American Medical Association, is designed to provide important legal and operational information at your fingertips!
Once you are ready to learn more, please take a moment to fill out our initial contact form to get started and staff will be in touch!
Additional Ways to Get Involved: For additional ways to get involved, you can visit our VOLUNTEER page to learn more about volunteer opportunities near you, or you could give back by DONATING to the NAFC Volunteers in Medicine Program – on our secure, online donation form you have the ability to apply your donation to the VIM Clinic Development Program.
About Volunteers in Medicine
Dedicated to assisting individuals, groups and local communities who want to develop free health care clinics.
Volunteers in Medicine clinics uphold the VIM Model, providing free healthcare services to the uninsured and medically underserved in their communities. They are the result of community-directed initiatives. To thrive and succeed, a VIM clinic needs to be woven into the fabric of the community. Each clinic is locally managed and independently operated.
Leadership, community organization, a detailed needs assessment and an understanding of the delivery of medical services are all essential requirements to starting a clinic based on the Volunteers in Medicine model. Establishing a Volunteers in Medicine free clinic requires alignment with others in your community who share your vision and have the skills and staying power to help develop a clinic. It is important to recruit both medical and non-medical leaders to join your organizing committee.
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
For a list of current Volunteers in Medicine clinics, please CLICK HERE.
History of Volunteers in Medicine
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, 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 – known as Volunteers in Medicine America – to assist interested communities in launching their own VIM clinic.
Since the early 1990s, Volunteers in Medicine has assisted in the development of free primary health care clinics for the uninsured. These facilities have expanded access to quality health care for low-income people throughout the country. Today, 94 clinics continue to follow the VIM free clinic model with more currently in the development stage.
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.