Conference inspires medical volunteerism

Allen Dollar, MD, assistant professor of medicine (Division of Cardiology), Emory School of Medicine, and  Grady Chief of Cardiology, wanted to help those in developing countries long before he went to medical school. He’s donated his time and expertise in places like Cambodia, Vietnam, El Salvador and Sri Lanka, using his vacations to teach and heal. For the last decade, through Children’s Cross Connections, he’s held clinics and taught medical students in Ethiopia.

International Conference on Medical Volunteerism met at Emory in April

Dollar and nearly 200 others shared their experiences at a conference at Emory in April. The inaugural International Conference on Medical Volunteerism was hosted by the Emory School of Medicine and co-hosted by Morehouse School of Medicine, Mercer University School of Medicine, Medical College of Georgia, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and the Medical University of South Carolina.

The conference aimed at inspiring and enabling volunteers, including how to establish a community clinic, how to advocate for disabled and homeless, cultural sensitivity and media relations.

Organizations from around the world were represented, among them Mercy Ships, Flying Doctors of America, Operation Safety Net, the Mayo and Cleveland clinics, Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund, Nurses for the Nations, Global HEED and Jewish Healthcare International.

Conference leader Neil Shulman, MD, says, “Our goal is to inspire more people to volunteer, as well as offer innovative approaches for improving the overall health of the human race, particularly the underserved. We want to create synergies between various volunteer organizations and the volunteers themselves by giving them a voice in collaboration efforts in the war against disease.”

Participant Ted Willi, information specialist at Emory’s Health Sciences Library, said the conference provided ample opportunity for discovering something new and unexpected in the world of medical volunteering. “The resources were vast: vendor booths representing volunteer organizations covering all aspects of health, thirty-eight workshop sessions, a talent show, photo exhibits and much informal interaction,” says Willi.

Willi asks, “So why do people volunteer? It opens-up possibilities: Volunteers go places, meet people and work to make their lives better – all the while being a contributing member of a community, not a tourist. Everyone has a talent or service they can share – a few hours per week helping in a local hospital, using surgical skills in a remote clinic in Ethiopia, or helping troubled youth find a happier, more productive life. The world of volunteering has something for everyone. And the rewards are priceless: One might even find their bliss!”

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