HSC Medalist: Volunteers in Medicine Berkshires

Winner of the Gold Medal in the Medical category of the 2017 Henry Schein Cares Medal program, Volunteers in Medicine Berkshires (VIM) is a free health care facility in Massachusetts that offers quality, comprehensive health care services to uninsured and underinsured adults in a respectful and caring manner.

In the interview below, Jeff Bliss, Director of Development for VIM, describes the important care VIM provides to the community and the ways in which the Henry Schein Cares Medal helps elevate their work.

Tell us a little about your organization and what makes it unique.

Volunteers in Medicine Berkshires (VIM) is a donor-funded, free health care facility.

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We have seven service areas (medical, dental, mental health, optometry, nutrition, acupuncture, and therapeutic massage), all staffed by professionals who are retired or still in practice and volunteer at VIM Berkshires to help meet a need and to give back to the community. We also have a small paid staff working alongside more than 140 volunteers who provide clinical and administrative support.

In the past year we cared for 800 patients in over 4,000 individual visits.

Our organization is unique because we combine exceptional professional care with the compassion of volunteers who are dedicated to each task they take on to keep the clinic operational. Because all of our services are in one facility, and because all of the services can cross-refer, a patient might have an appointment for dental care and follow that with a medical appointment or an acupuncture session, all during one visit to VIM.

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What are one or two main challenges you face in accomplishing your mission? How can private companies such as Henry Schein help?

We have two main challenges – raising our entire budget annually, a number that is fast approaching $1M, and continually recruiting new volunteers, both as health care providers and as individuals to support the operation with administrative and fundraising work.

Private companies like Henry Schein play an important role as donors – both financially and through in-kind resources. The Gold Henry Schein Cares Medal is an excellent example of this.

What does the Henry Schein Cares Medal mean to your organization?

The generosity from Henry Schein and the Henry Schein Cares Foundation (HSCF) has impacted VIM’s work in several important ways.

When you visit VIM, the award hangs on the wall just inside the reception area. It is noticed and commented on by many guests, including patients, potential volunteers, and donors who may be visiting the clinic for the first time. It elevates the distinction of the clinic and makes the job of describing the excellence of the staff that much easier. Recently, the medal was displayed at our high-end donor event and provided ample opportunities for conversation among the interested donors.

We also took part in a Facebook Live interview at the awards ceremony, which featured our Medical Services Director, Ilana Steinhauer, FNP (now our Executive Director). The video is linked under several staff email signatures, which has allowed the presentation to be viewed dozens of times by those who follow the link. That video continues to have an impact on individuals who view it.

Meanwhile, the in-kind award brought much needed supplies to both the medical and dental service areas and allowed us to further support the supply needs of the other service areas.

We also were able to direct some of the cash award funds toward elevating our part-time Community Social Worker to a full-time position, allowing her to further assist our patients with the many challenges they face besides their health care (known as the social determinants of health).

Finally, we were able to hire a professional photographer to capture the impact of how our services affect patient lives and thereby better inform potential donors of the work we are doing.

As we continue to generate support from private foundations as well as medical and dental societies, we include information about the HSC award as evidence of the excellence of the clinical practices at VIM Berkshires.

The recognition will continue to be a part of the story of VIM Berkshires for years to come.

What’s next for Volunteers in Medicine Berkshires?

Our ongoing goal is to continue to provide free care to income-qualified individuals in a compassionate way.

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We’re also always looking to provide a mechanism for individuals to engage with the community by volunteering. Like any non-profit, we aim to raise sufficient funds to support our work without relying on state or federal monies or on third-party payments. And we will continue to innovate programmatically within the range of services we provide.

A prime example of this is our current approach to integrative pain management, which you can hear a bit more about in this interview:

Jeff Bliss is Director of Development for Volunteers In Medicine Berkshires.

Learn more about the Henry Schein Cares Medal program and how it recognizes excellence in expanding access to animal health care in this letter from the HSCF Co-Chair, Dr. Louis Sullivan.

Applications for the 2017 HSC Medal program are now open. Learn more and apply here.