John T. Kihm, MD, Thomas LaGrelius, MD
The sky isn’t the limit for Concierge Medicine (CM) physicians and charity. Passionate about helping in and beyond their practices, CM doctors “give back” with amazing variety. They volunteer with boy scouts, fly airplanes to remote patients, teach and lead. They volunteer with gusto in local and worldwide communities. Unbridled from former volume-style practices, liberated from insurance constraints and free to think “outside the box,” CM physicians creatively share time, energy and financial resources to help and inspire—all while having fun!
Their chosen and hard-earned practice style, Concierge Medicine, engenders giving. Charitable opportunities abound on scales of adventure, time, and resource commitment. None is better than another, and the best is the one you love and have fun doing. Take the leap—try a new one on for size.
When up his ears in alligators, the traditional doctor thinks necessarily more about self-preservation than charity. Outside the insurance swamp, life is better. American College of Private Physician (ACPP) member, Donna Sue Dolle, MD, of Nassua Bay, TX, extolls, “Doing Concierge Medicine has allowed me to do much more in my community. I am very involved in Boy Scouts, which I was unable to do when I had a traditional practice.” Performing Community service, once unthinkable during traditional practice, becomes the norm in concierge. Shifting time formerly designated to doing insurance busy-work on family and community, is the starting point for giving. Perhaps lower on the adventure scale, but no less gratifying, family and local time found charity’s base.
Still local, homeless shelters abound in the US, as do homeless patients. One author, John Kihm, MD, regularly volunteers at Durham, NC’s Samaritan Health Center, a non-profit homeless shelter clinic. “I doubled my community service time since converting to CM,” he says. “This clinic is incredible fun, not only because it’s fun to give, but helping underserved ‘neighbors’ is rewarding. I love uncovering as-yet undiagnosed and interesting conditions in an incredibly appreciative and interesting population.” His CM practice also donates medicines, vaccines, and money to the clinic. For those who enjoy giving, charity work rewards beyond description. A notch up on the adventure scale, homeless medicine fits easily into a ½ day per month CM schedule.
CM physicians commonly give “scholarships” to needy patients within their practices. Most CM doctors forgo or discount membership fees to disadvantaged patients who value their doctor. ACPP board member, Sue Turner, MD, of Roswell, GA, figures that 8% of her patients are scholarship. CM doctors contract directly with patients, with health insurance secondary. So rather than donating unpaid or underpaid services to insurance companies, CM physicians donate directly to patients via scholarships. “Donating to patients rather than to health insurance companies is not only gratifying, it’s liberating,” says Dr. Kihm. As a side benefit, scholarship patients often refer fully-paying family and friends. Patients appreciate good will, and the good doctors reap what they sow.
Teaching, by sharing knowledge, skills and compassion appeals to physicians in CM. They donate time to shadow premed college students, train medical students, residents, nursing and physician assistant students. An informal survey of the ACPP indicates that nearly all teach in some fashion. In traditional medicine, teaching can be very stressful due to time constraints. In CM, teaching is a natural way to share in a less stressful setting.
Donating leadership-time through local, state, and national political work, Drs. Jeff Puglissi, of Greenwich, CT, and Tom LaGrelius, and Marcy Zwelling, of CA, ACPP board members, benefit not only the CM community, but have spoken strongly in the US Congress to represent all independent doctors. Having worked hard to create their dream practices, these very practices support the time and resources to help a myriad of physicians.
Adventure anyone? Robb Rowley, MD, of Las Vegas, led a group of medical students on a medical mission to Haiti this summer. International mission work involves a very high level of preparation and coordination, including travel plans, vaccinations, and documents, and coordinating with the destination mission regarding housing, travel, clinic facilities and supplies, scope of medical services, and personal safety. The financial outlay per unit time donated is also high. International mission work is adventurous and intense, creating lifelong memories. The palpable patient appreciation inherent with this work makes it all worthwhile.
Dr. Kihm, of Durham, NC has for 21 years combined his passion of aviation with medical mission by flying to Remote Area Medical (RAM.USA.org) clinics in the Appalachians, and has additionally flown over 220 missions to his house call practice on the remote Outer Banks, Ocracoke Island, NC (https://conciergemedicinetoday.org/2018/05/23/ep-169-docpreneur-podcast-meet-dr-john-kihm-mission-medicine-and-concierge-medicine-working-together/). Both RAM clinics and Ocracoke house calls serve the less well-off and medically isolated. Opting to combine the pleasure and fun of flying with helping patients is made possible by his CM practice. His hometown patients knowingly support his efforts, and often donate to his causes as well! It’s about the challenge, the fun, and “doing good.”
Finally, in addition to volunteer work, there are always money donations. For example, in disaster relief medicine, unless you are part of a highly organized and experienced group, it may be better to donate money to a reputable relief organization than to “show up to help.” Well-meaning physicians needing food, shelter and personal protection may actually hinder local relief efforts. Current disaster relief emphasizes paying for local help, rather than placing locals idly on the sidelines. Financial donations are extremely valuable and appreciated. Never underestimate your donation’s value.
Compared with traditional medicine, Concierge Medicine liberates physicians to do more for charity, while shedding insurance shackles. Imagination’s boundaries for giving blossom from Concierge Medicine’s hard-working doctors. Local, regional, national and international charity—take your pick--it’s all good. Anyone can give, and those who do will certainly reap far more than they sow.