Our humble exam 'room'
One of my passions here is volunteering. One reason why I jumped when they asked for volunteers to treat Hurricane Katrina patients a few months ago.
Somehow, I find this extremely enriching and rewarding. A world away from the complex medicine we practice at work, away from entitled or spoilt patients, away from issues of billing, paperwork, research and other credentials. Just pure and simple man-helping-fellow-man.
Since internship, I've occasionally helped at the Salvation Army free clinic in town. And then, fate, or luck, or whatever you call it, steps in. A friend of mine asks me to help her in establishing the diabetes clinic. She's since left town, but somehow the clinic project falls onto my lap, and I've been the director for the last 2 years.
Doing a stat hemoglobin A1cWhy the diabetes free clinic exists became apparent when I researched for my afternoon presentation 2 days ago. 7% of the US population, estimated 20.6 million people (that's 20,600,000), have diabetes. The estimated cost of care was $132 billion dollars in 2003 (in contrast, Malaysia's gross national income that year was only $121 billion). And unfortunately, healthcare ain't cheap.
The patients we treat are usually uninsured, patients with difficulties making ends meet. A contrast to the wealthy, the VIPs we see at clinic. Mostly citizens, we see also quite a number of immigrants from Somalia, Ethiopia, Asia and the Middle East. It's a nice change of environment as the gratitude, the 'thank yous' are real, and apparent, they come from the heart. They know you are there till 8 pm after a 12 hour day on your own accord. They know you're not judging them on how they dress or smell (well, perhaps somewhat on their diet and smoking habits, but I tell them so). They don't mind that the free clinic does not have proper exam rooms, or lab tests (only semi-expired stat hemoglobin A1c kits).
And, surprising as it may be, I find myself rushing from work to the free clinic feeling tired (after all, I started my day almost 11 hours ago) and yet feel energized when I'm done seeing patients there. A mystery, no?
It makes one thankful for the opportunity to help. For the training, and the ability to use one's skill to touch perhaps not many, but even a few. For the support my workplace has given, from the free medications to even free surgery for our Salvation Army patients who need them.
Volunteer if you ever when the chance. You get more than you give. Really.