FEATURED: Volunteers Called to Heal Our Community

This story was originally published in the Summer 2018 issue of OneSpirit Magazine. Click here to read the full magazine.

Harold Hedges, MD Retired family practice physician, volunteering 15+ years

After long and successful careers, some people may want to move on to other endeavors after retirement. But a group of retired physicians and nurses working at our free clinics aren’t calling it quits just yet. In fact, they’re using their medical skills to help uninsured and under-served individuals and families in the Little Rock area gain access to critical medical care.

“Our volunteer physicians and nurses are a critical part of the care we provide at Volunteers in Medicine free clinics, and we could not do it without them,” says Rhonda Higgins, RN, community outreach coordinator. “It’s a joy to work with volunteers – they love what they’re doing or they wouldn’t be doing it. They treat every person with dignity and respect, and their commitment and care really come through to every person they meet.”

Volunteering is about giving to others, but it also offers joy and satisfaction for those who willingly give of their time and talents. Studies have shown that adults who volunteer enjoy better mental and physical health – and live longer. Rhonda points out that these volunteers have worked selflessly for many years, and she’s thrilled they’re being recognized for their hard work and dedication. Continue reading to learn more about how volunteering has made a difference in so many lives.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering?
“In the volunteer setting, I love the simplicity of practicing medicine without worrying about insurance. It reminds me of why I became a physician in the first place. We don’t have the same bells and whistles, but I have the time to listen to patients and not be pushed by the time constraints that are often part of primary care. It’s me, my stethoscope and my prescription pad, and it’s amazing how much medicine you can practice without any test at all.”
Harold Hedges, MD
Retired family practice physician, volunteering 15+ years

Why should you consider volunteering?
“If you have medical training, what better way to be useful than to use that training to benefit others? There’s a reason you became a doctor or a nurse, and not everyone can do what you do. Ever since I was in high school  I wanted to be a nurse – there’s no sense to quit being a nurse now!”
Diane Wittig, RN
Retired cardiac nurse, volunteering since 2003

Why do you volunteer?
“Everyone has different reasons for becoming a physician, and my purpose was always to help people. Most of the people we treat in the clinic don’t have anything, but they are still struggling with the same health conditions that are keeping them from living a full and active lifestyle. You can see it on their faces how much they appreciate what we do, and their expressions of thanks help keep me going.”
Douglas Poindexter, MD
Retired general surgeon, volunteering since 2002

How has volunteering impacted you?
“The clinic at Gardner Methodist Church was started because one woman, who was a nurse at St. Vincent, saw a need in our community and decided to do something about it. Her name was Nettie Jane, and she had been my instructor in nursing school. She asked me to be part of the clinic after I retired at age 70, and I enjoyed working alongside her and filling in the gap for people who needed care. I’ve always enjoyed nursing, and volunteering in a service that you’ve rendered for many years helps you feel accomplished and more complete. I always leave feeling better than when I came in.”
Nancy Watson, RN
Retired nurse, volunteering for 13+ years

“I’ve always enjoyed getting to know people, and volunteering at the clinic means I can treat without restrictions. I don’t know anyone who has volunteered and regretted it. There are so many who have overwhelming financial needs and are unable to take care of their health because of it. Through volunteering, I’ve gained the knowledge that I’m doing something God has equipped me to do and expected me to do. I can’t think of a better feeling than that.”
Jeanne Murphy, MD
Retired internal medicine physician, volunteering nearly 20 years