By Paula Potts and Tracy Pineda
When asked what makes Arlington Free Clinic's (AFC) Women's Breast Health Program so successful, the staff invariably describes the extraordinary generosity of volunteers. According to Paula Potts, AFC's Director of Foundation Relations, over 70 volunteers, including physicians, NPs, nurses, educators and interpreters provide thousands of service hours each year to help them meet their program goals. Some volunteer once a month, others work once a week during regularly scheduled Women's Clinic sessions at AFC.
Volunteers at AFC are from the community and often recommend others to volunteer alongside the staff. They are drawn by the Clinic's mission to serve low income, uninsured Arlingtonians and by the desire to have a positive impact in the community. It is not surprising then to hear that once accepted and trained, volunteers tend to stay – over half have been with AFC for more than 5 years! The Clinic's volunteer network also extends deeply into the Arlington community. Virginia Hospital Center, their most important partner, provides free mammograms. And thanks to the remarkable generosity of other medical partners—developed and nurtured over time—their patients who are diagnosed with breast cancer have access to the full gamut of care from biopsies to surgery, chemotherapy, radiology and reconstructive surgery – all pro bono.
Like AFC, many other BHOP grantees promote breast cancer awareness in their communities and meet their goals by engaging community volunteers. Since its founding in 1994, Clínica Tepeyac in Colorado has relied extensively on community volunteers to complement paid staff in providing the highest quality of care to the community they serve.
Clínica has four different types of dedicated volunteers; medical, mental health, administrative and health education/health literacy. Their medical volunteers, including physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and nurses, come from a wide range of medical institutions and universities. Clinica also benefits from passionate retired physicians, who are often able to volunteer on a weekly basis! These volunteer medical providers account for hundreds of hours of patient care.
Clínica's health promotion team organizes and recruits volunteers in the community to help spread the message of preventative health to their communities. They also refer community members for medical care and a wide range of educational classes offered through the clinic. Volunteer promotores are recruited at a variety of sites in the Metro Denver area. Along with learning about the "promotores educational model", participants also learn about specific health or chronic disease topics. Once they have received the appropriate training, they are given the opportunity to volunteer with Clínica as part of the health promotions team! A monthly promotores meeting is held to support volunteers, offer additional training and provide updated information about what's going on in the clinic.
In recognition of the tremendous contribution of volunteers towards the mission of Clínica Tepeyac's, they have regular volunteer appreciation events and we recognized one of their volunteers with Clínica Tepeyac's "Outstanding Volunteer Award" at their annual gala!