Volunteers in Medicine
established in 2002
Volunteers in Medicine Jacksonville, Inc. was established in 2002 by co-founders James Burt, MD and Dottie Dorion, RN, MS and opened its doors for patients in September 2003 — one of 94 Volunteers in Medicine clinics across the United States. All Volunteers in Medicine clinics are free clinics, but not all are dedicated to treating the working poor.
The Jacksonville clinic is at the corner of Ocean St. and Duval St. in the old Paulus Music Store. The building was rehabilitated to a clinic shortly after incorporation through private donations and volunteer craftsmen. Ms. Dorion and Dr. Burt’s reason for starting the clinic was that there were healthcare options for low or no income individuals that did not work, but no options for hardworking people who did not have access to medical care.
The mission of Volunteers in Medicine Jacksonville is to provide free outpatient primary and specialty medical services to Northeast Florida’s WORKING, low-income and uninsured individuals and families to keep them healthy, employed and out of our hospital emergency rooms.
The Volunteers in Medicine Jacksonville Clinic is staffed by dedicated active and retired physicians, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, and specialists. These professionals dedicate their time to fulfill our mission of helping our community’s working uninsured. Our success can be directly attributed to the passion and commitment of more than 230 active volunteer clinical and non-clinical professionals that perform a wide array of services at our downtown clinic six days a week.
Ideas of Free Clinic Initiated
Initial conversations regarding community project with close friends and visit to Hilton Head with Dr. and Mrs. McConnell, national founder of Volunteers in Medicine.
Discussions of Volunteers in Medicine Begin
Weekly meetings were held with Rev. Gene Zimmerman to explore possibilities and logistics of beginning. In September, Dr. C.B. McIntosh was added to the team.
Volunteers in Medicine Project becomes Reality
The four of us started adding individuals to a working board. Dick Petry, Hope Brank, Major McHargue from the Salvation Army, George Ridge, Wes Westmoreland, Jerry Milner, and Louis Pecci were added as available. Jeff Goldhagen agreed to support out clinic ideas. A contract with Urban Dynamics to help us with organization was made and continues for several months. Louis developed our logo and provided thoughts on the branding aspect of our clinic operation. Sherri Deese from George Ridge's office became our secretary, computer "guru" and right hand in moving the paperwork and details of our project to a reality.
Project Introduced to Community
Dottie and many on the board were active ·with fundraising, presentations, and general support activities. A Gala was held at the Vincenty Spillert Gallery to introduce the project to the community.
The 501-c-3 status began to be a reality. Riverside Hospital Foundation gave us our first grant for $25,000 to be awarded on the day the clinic opened.
The agreement on leasing the Paulus building was made and volunteer contractor, Wes Westmoreland began cleaning out the building. Downtown Rotary funded the repair of the clinic’s roof.
Construction and Fundraising
Dottie and Jim visited with anyone who would talk with them. Bill Mercer became involved with suggestions concerning construction and funding sources. The Helow family grant and an anonymous grant from a local foundation confirmed their efforts to move forward... In mid spring Kim Sutton called and expressed an interest in helping with design and implementation of the clinic remodeling process.
The renovation process was approved by the board. Resolutions from the Duval County Medical Society and City Council were received. Renovations initiated. The collection of furniture and equipment gifts started with regular request for volunteers to move these items. Our chairs for the clinic were collected and the Design Factory loaned us the use of their warehouse for storage. Richard Hugo renovated and refurbished all of our upholstered chairs for matching colors set.
A special milestone occurred when an anonymous very generous donor completed our funds to pay for the renovations to assure opening in September.
The September Opening was a tremendous success with a large number of people in attendance. Dr. McConnell, Mayor Peyton, George Ridge, Dottie and Jim were speakers at the event.
Dr. Nichols was our mainstay for clinic coverage at the beginning. Gradually, the Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner volunteers made VIM-Jax their project and continue to give us a sound base for care. The Women's Health concept started in the fall and Dr. McCranie made this a wonderful early evening project for the patients.
The Dorion Art Reception and Fund Raiser were quite successful. Many new supporters as well as significant funding came as a result of this effort.
Increasing Number of Patients
The statistics were up to 200 plus patients and 600 plus visits. The provider numbers were beginning to increase. Barbara Whittaker began work with the clinic and in February became an interim administrator.
The UNF agreement was completed and the clinic staff reorganized to meet this change. Cheryl Leedy was hired and volunteer coordinator. Nancy Coale was hired as clinic administrator and Donna VanLock, ARNP as clinic director. Kim Fields became the receptionist/medical assistant.
The patients served quickly increased to 380 with over 600 patient visits. Screening became organized with patient screening days twice a week.
The time to date has been quite productive in increasing funding, efficiency of operation, fine tuning our processes, increasing volunteers significantly and our most recent numbers are greater than 1000 patients with over 2600 patients visits.