One of the greatest gifts we can provide for the community is that of health, especially to those of low-income. How has United Way approached the problem of getting healthcare to those who can’t afford it via the normal routes? Answer: a care clinic that operates between the hours of 5-7pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, carried on the backs of volunteer healthcare professionals– doctors and nurses who are willing to give a couple of hours during the week to see patients totally gratis.

Dr. Ellis LeRoy, a retired physician, and Maria Black, a nurse practitioner, are such volunteers whose service has brought meaning and joy to their own lives and the incredible gift of good health to those who would not have access to it otherwise. Maria says,

It’s all about giving back. Seeing the patients at the clinic keeps me grounded as to why I went into nursing, why I went into healthcare. It’s an opportunity for service with no comparable rewards. If I could count the number of blessings being extended my way by every patient, and the faith, and the gratitude, and the love… I mean, you’re being paid in full.”

Dr. LeRoy believes there to be many ways that physicians and nurses can contribute:

“There’s a need through community connect for physicians to volunteer to see our patients as specialty referrals.There are may physicians we can get patients [in] to see right away. Some of the specialities we are not able to get patients into at all.”

This problem stems from a lack of doctors, especially those who practice gastroenterology, dermatology, general surgery, orthopaedics, internal medicine, endocrinology, gynecology and obstetrics.

“There is a tremendous need for that side of the volunteering– not just to come into the clinic, but to see patients in their clinic as referrals.We can use physicians in primary care, we can use PA’s, nurse practitioners, we can use students. I find it really rewarding to volunteer with the pre-med students that are there. They are so energetic, and so wanting to learn and wanting to help. It helps them acclimate to being a physician.”

Be it a night a week or a night every two months, all levels of volunteer service are appreciated by the clinic. No matter how busy your schedule, the volunteer practitioners all expressed how rewarding their experience was at the Volunteer Care Clinic.

“Once you get there you forget how tired you are, how busy your day was, because you see the faces on those chairs. It makes my days definitely very long, but everytime I finish, I have that sense of accomplishment and reward for having served. It’s definitely busy and a commitment, but when you’ve committed to provide that service, it’s an easy task to accomplish, you’re complete,” says Maria Black.

Dr. LeRoy states, “For any of the physicians who who come to the clinic even one night a month, it will be so rewarding for their practice and for their lives to realize how much help they can provide and realize how much need there is for the people there. I can say that in retirement it is the funnest thing that I do and the most rewarding thing that I do.”

For more information on how you can volunteer, call the United Way of Utah County Office at (801) 374-2588.