Going back decades and then some, community leaders throughout the years and throughout the United States at some point in their lives recognized the needs of their neighbors who had no access to healthcare, and they decided to take action.
In this blog post, we’ll look at the action of one man in particular, Dr. Jack McConnell, how his legacy of caring lives on with the NAFC, and how you can start a free clinic to better serve your community.
A Legacy of Caring
Dr. McConnell lived an extraordinary and impactful life. The son of a preacher in Appalachia, his family did not have much, but he grew up knowing the value of neighbor helping neighbor. He went on to fulfill his childhood dream of completing medical school and had an amazingly successful career.
Upon retirement, he and his wife Mary Ellen moved to an affluent retirement complex in Hilton Head, South Carolina. It was here that he looked past the gates and saw neighbors who were struggling, working hard but with no health insurance and no access to care. He saw a solution to utilize the time and talents of retired volunteers and although he faced many obstacles, he rallied support and brought the community together to open the first Volunteers in Medicine (VIM) clinic.
Dr. McConnell didn’t stop there. Recognizing the need for affordable, accessible healthcare throughout the United States, he began mentoring others to help replicate the VIM clinic model. This led to the creation of the national organization, Volunteers in Medicine America (VIMA). Since its first days, there are now close to 100 Volunteers in Medicine clinics in states throughout the country providing free, quality care to their neighbors in need.
While Dr. McConnell is no longer with us, his impact and legacy lives on. VIM clinics continue to provide important services, are expanding, new clinics are being developed, and communities in need are going down the path that he once did of opening a clinic for his neighbors.
“No town can become a community as long as we leave behind a segment of the population in need of the basics of life.”
– Dr. Jack McConnell (1925-2018)
NAFC and Volunteers in Medicine Join Forces
The NAFC is honored to have been chosen to continue the legacy of Dr. McConnell. In 2021, the NAFC and Volunteers in Medicine (VIM) joined forces. With the NAFC and VIMA being long-standing partners and with a vast majority of VIM clinics actively involved with both organizations, it was a natural fit.
While Volunteers in Medicine America (VIMA) closed their doors in 2021 — their story was not over just yet. VIMA’s flagship free clinic development program, Volunteers in Medicine, moved to the NAFC, continuing its mission of developing free clinics in communities in need.
Together, NAFC and the VIM program help others start, develop and expand free clinics in their community, from start to finish. The program offered through the NAFC offers guidance to start-ups, from the initial feasibility study to the clinic’s opening day.
How You Can Start A Free Clinic In Your Community
You have identified that there is a genuine need for a clinic in your community, that others share this concern, and that there is potential for support and volunteers. Now what?
Through the NAFC’s VIM program, we offer an extensive process to ensure you get your free clinic off the ground. If you would like to get started, we ask that you fill out this contact form and describe to us the need for a free clinic in your community.
Questions you will be asked include your background, describing your community’s demographics, if your community is suited and/or in need of a free clinic, what we can do to help, and more.
It’s also good measure if you begin planning for your free clinic ahead of time. Think about logistical elements — like location, operating hours, operating costs, employees on hand, and how you will spread the word.
How the NAFC Can Help
If you’re interested in starting your own free clinic, we ask that you kindly fill out this questionnaire and a NAFC representative will be in contact.