7 Ways to Give Back as a Physician

August 28, 2012

Whether you have a lot of free time or just a few minutes each day, here are ways your skills can benefit those in need.

Whether you have a lot of free time or just a few minutes each day, here are ways your skills can benefit those in need.

1. Participate in athletic events. Love sports and doing good deeds, but don't have time for both? Combine your efforts by signing up for charity sporting events like 10K races and golf tournaments. Make it a team-building exercise by encouraging your staff and colleagues to join as participants or volunteers.

2. Volunteer as a medic. Medics are always needed at sporting events (such as road races), or for the longer-term in developing countries. Check out sites like IMVA.org or Healthcarevolunteer.com, or contact the organizers of a local sporting event to see how you can be of service. Just make sure you have adequate malpractice coverage before volunteering your services: Being a Good Samaritan doesn't provide you immunity.

3. Start a blog. Physicians are the authority on good health. If you enjoy writing, start a blog on your practice's website about common health issues faced by your patients. Just remember to include an appropriate disclaimer on every page, noting that the advice given does not replace or overrule a licensed physician's judgment or diagnosis.

4. Become a medical student's mentor. From providing medical students with advice to allowing them to "shadow" you in your practice, numerous types of mentoring programs are available. Some might even cater to your specific interests, such as encouraging students to choose particular specialties or to practice in rural areas. Inquire about such programs at your state medical society, medical specialty association, or a nearby medical school.

5. Volunteer in a free clinic. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently released findings that nearly half of uninsured adults in the U.S. have unmet health needs due to cost. Volunteering at a free clinic can help change that. To find a free clinic in your area, simply do a quick Internet search. Again, though, make sure malpractice insurance will cover you, or that the clinic provides coverage.

6. Get involved in a medical or specialty society. Participating in the medical society that is most relevant to you - whether at the county, state, or national level - will give you a chance to be heard and to help set priorities. If a leadership role isn't for you, consider getting involved in physician advocacy or serving on a special committee.

7. Help out your own patients who need it. Build up a list of referral services for patients with unmet medical needs and nonmedical needs. Consider including area social services; prescription-assistance programs such as the Partnership for Prescription Assistance (http://www.pparx.org/en); and opportunities for patients to receive discounted healthcare services, through websites like BidOnHealth.com, which allows patients to purchase lab or radiology tests at reduced prices.

Marisa Torrieri is an associate editor at Physicians Practice. She can be reached at marisa.torrieri@ubm.com.

Aubrey Westgate is an associate editor at Physicians Practice. She can be reached at aubrey.westgate@ubm.com.

This article originally appeared in the September 2012 issue of Physicians Practice.