Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic, like many free clinics of their kind across the nation, was spurred into existence following the success of one sustainable model for free healthcare. Based out of Hilton Head, SC., the now nationally recognized clinic and nonprofit organization, Volunteers In Medicine, was founded by Dr. Jack McConnell in 1994 and sought to address the large local uninsured population by utilizing the expertise and credentials of retired medical professionals.
Today, there are are 93 free clinics operating in the United States that are part of the VIM alliance, using their methods of best practices and depending largely on volunteer professional support and community funding. These clinics provide free medical services to eligible patients without health insurance, and do not bill third party payers. BIFMC, founded in 2008 by doctors Arthur Booth and Charlie Davis, grew precisely out of the footprint of the VIM model, with the shared vision that through low-cost, volunteer-driven medical care, the clinic could help to maintain healthier workers and create a stronger community for the Barrier Islands. Since the clinic doors opened in 2009, they have served over 4000 patients in need, working with a volunteer base of 122 physicians, nurses, and support, with more than 1.3 million given in kind services.
Increasingly, free clinics in the VIM Alliance are depending on the power of social media in order to reach potential patients who do not realize that they may be eligible for free, on-going medical care; raise funding via social media campaigns such as #GivingTuesday, and attract the talent of medical personnel who might volunteer their time and services. For many retired physicians and nurses in particular, volunteering can be a mutually rewarding experience where specialists are able to give back to the community and also retain their own vital skills through practice and continuing medical education – one of the many appealing features of the VIM model that has made it a national success. For many retired physicians who may not be on Facebook, it is often through their children or grandchildren that they learn about the program.
“Reaching a wide range of generations is key for this reason,” points out Marketing and Communications Specialist for BIFMC, Carrie Moores. “Especially when there are many ways to support your local free clinic. Financial contributions are critical, but following, liking, and sharing the on-line resources provided by VIM clinics and their alliances is half the battle: raising patient awareness and recruiting new talent. Facebook advocacy is an extremely powerful tool for our growth and success. Often, it is the only means of giving a voice to a largely overlooked, uninsured population.”
If you would like to find a way to support your local VIM free clinic and help raise awareness, visit our VIM Alliance resource page here. You can also follow and share content via BIFMC on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. To share BIFMC eligibility info, copy and paste the URL from this page to your social media sharing platform.
Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic provides medical care to eligible patients, just like any family practitioner or internist – but it is free. We serve uninsured adults living at or below 200 % of the Federal poverty level who live or work on Johns, Wadmalaw or James Islands. You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.