Making the Case for Volunteering (Edited version)
If you were to ask hematology fellows to name their most valuable resources, “time” would rank high on that list. Amid the demands of clinical and research responsibilities, as well as promises and obligations to family and friends, it’s hard to find time even for oneself. Despite the certainty that we won’t find more time in the day, sometimes the best use of that precious resource is to give it away. ASH supports Health Volunteers Overseas, a non-profit organization aimed at bringing hematology expertise and consultation to developing nations. Three sites, located in Tanzania, Uganda, and Cambodia, each present two- to four-week opportunities to provide sustainable care in developing nations. A number of volunteer opportunities also exist within ASH, ranging from political advocacy on a national level to local member representation.
Outside of ASH, volunteer medical clinics providing care to the underserved exist locally in just about every city. The National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics provides a comprehensive listing of these clinics and offers a great starting point for finding a location near you. In my local city, Minneapolis, the Phillips Neighborhood Clinic is entirely run by medical students with preceptor supervision. The clinic is fueled by infectious, hopeful optimism and offers clarity about why we’re fortunate to be practicing medicine.
Whether we’re aware of it or not, we serve as pivotal role models to future generations of physicians interested in a career in hematology. Most medical schools have internal medicine or hematology-focused interest groups begging for fellows to share why they find the field so fascinating. Spending time with residents on rounds should bring out our best as we hope to best exemplify that next step for budding hematologists.
Volunteer opportunities aren’t limited to medical service. Community service abounds in various forms all around us; taking time away from fellowship to give back is an undoubtedly rewarding experience. Volunteering one’s time is the surest way to stay balanced and keep priorities in check as the sometimes chaotic life of fellowship swirls around us.