New and Satisfying Type of Medical Practice

Written by on September 30, 2013 in Practice tips - No comments

Do you know of a medical practice where:

  • All the health professionals are smiling all day?
  • In a place where they WANT to be?
  • Doctors really do make a difference?
  • Physicians are not constantly stressed out?

Does this sound like a fantasy?   Well, a place like this DOES exist!

Just ask Marion Simon, one of the founders of Volunteers in Medicine of the Berkshires, located in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. She explained, “I feel very fortunate to enjoy my health and healthcare.  It was an eye-opener to know that others didn’t have the same healthcare and feel everyone should have access. I feel strongly about paying back to others for having a good life, and being there to help others in their time of need.”

VIM (Volunteers in Medicine)

VIM provides a totally free, comprehensive program of primary medical care, women’s health, mental health services, nutrition, optometry, a full range of dental care and acupuncture.

In addition, assistance is given for prescriptions, laboratory services and in-hospital care. Arrangements with Fairview Hospital and other local care resources ensure that testing and specialty consultations are available for free.  Eligible individuals are referred for enrollment in the Commonwealth Care and Mass Health programs through the Berkshire Health System Advocacy for Access program. Large pharmaceutical companies supply drugs for enrolled patients, much of which is gotten from patient assistant programs (PAP)

Many physicians and health personnel are busy with their careers and family.  They have not had the time or opportunity to give back in a meaningful way although it is something that is often expressed.

Some doctors, dentists and health providers have active practices elsewhere but volunteer their time at VIM as a way to get involved in the community.

Retired health professionals can keep up with their medical and dental training and feel that they still have a purpose…and make a tremendous difference.

Because VIM accepts NO insurance, NO grants or governmental aid, this healthcare model can work without getting bogged down in truckloads of forms and administrative work…cutting down on expenses and frustration.

The health center depends on volunteer support to operate on a daily basis providing healing with respect and operating costs are covered through fund raising and charity events.  Currently $600,000 is needed and raised annually for operations, over and above the approximate $400,000 supplied through volunteer services.  Many committed and skilled volunteers give generously of themselves, their experience and their time.

The diverse range of services is provided in a caring way, integrating a host of problems in one location using cross-disciplinary specialties in the same visit.

Mission and Goal

VIM’s mission is to “provide quality healthcare and support in a culture of caring for the working uninsured or unemployed residents”.

The goal is to educate the community to self-manage their health conditions and to transition the healthcare from that of caring for urgent or catastrophic events to that of prevention.

This services us all for improved health decreases lost work time and improves the overall health of the community.

“ What raises the quality of life for one of us, raises the quality of life for all”.

VIM’s vision is “May we have eyes to see those rendered invisible and excluded, open arms and hearts to reach out and include them, healing hands to touch their lives with love, and in the process, health ourselves”.

Who Do They Serve?

Patients at VIM are our neighbors, our friends, and those who service us as part of our local community.

These deserving people are hardworking and often have two or three jobs to make ends meet.  They beautify our landscaping, clean our homes, farm our produce, work in restaurants and beauty salons, do construction or have part-time jobs.  Some are small business owners who bring in profits sporadically.  All are financially challenged and struggling- the unseen, neglected, and forgotten members of our community who are hurting.

When we look around and see beautiful scenery, lush greenery and mountains, lots of culture with Shakespeare Company, The Boston Symphony and many shows with famous actors congregating in the Berkshires for the summer, it is not easy to think of the “subculture” lurking in the shadows- the people in need.


Income limits are set at 300% of Federal Poverty Guidelines, which basically means approximately $35,000 per year for a single individual and $70,000/year for a family of four.

Too, VIM fills the gap for the 6 months that people are forced to wait for healthcare after applying for MassHealth. Many valued lives are lost or compromised each and every day, without this available care.

In these ever-changing times in healthcare when many are voicing a sense of helplessness and frustration, we can help to rid our communities of illness and strife.

Remember when caring for patients brought us a sense of pride and accomplishment?  You can get it back again!  There are actually VIMS located in many regions of the country; perhaps even in your locale.  Give them a call and extend your helping hand.

By Barbara Hales

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