History and Mission
“To promote, guide and help sustain a national network of free clinics emphasizing the use of retired medical and community volunteers within a culture of caring to improve access to health care for America’s underserved and uninsured.”
Volunteers in Medicine (VIM) 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, 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, these 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 to assist interested communities in launching their own VIM clinic. Today, this organization is known as the Volunteers in Medicine national office.
For two decades, the VIM national office assisted local communities and built a national network of free health care clinics to care for the uninsured and medically underserved. This network is known as the VIM Alliance. VIM has withstood many changes in the health care landscape. Recognizing that free clinics continue to hold a distinctive place in the health care safety net, in 2018 the national office made a strategic decision to expand the VIM Alliance to include established free clinics that are aligned with the VIM Model. Established clinics that join the VIM Alliance are referred to as expansion sites.
Expert VIM national office staff provide individualized assistance to developing free clinics and established sites that wish to join the VIM Alliance. For both groups, the emphasis is on upholding the VIM Model. 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 receive assistance and educational resources to assist them in attaining VIM Alliance membership status.
To learn more about Volunteers in Medicine, see the Volunteers in Medicine Fact Sheet.
Founder, Dr. Jack McConnell tells his story about starting the
first Volunteers in Medicine clinic in Hilton Head, South Carolina.