June 06, 2022

Volunteering in Radiology During Retirement

Douglas (Rusty) Brown, MD, FACR

Retirement is a wonderful gift and opportunity that is different for each of us. We each have unique desires and goals, and if your goal includes using your imaging skills to provide medical care to patients, I’d like to make you aware of a potential opportunity.

When I retired a few years ago and moved to Hilton Head, SC, I was fortunate to be in a location that had the first Volunteers in Medicine (VIM) Clinic. It was started in 1993 by Dr. Jack McConnell who successfully blended two needs: low-income patients with little to no access to medical care and retired physicians who had the expertise and time to help.

The VIM Clinic in my community has an ultrasound machine that allows me and another volunteer radiologist to provide ultrasound services to the clinic’s patients. The clinic also has an X-ray machine for plain radiography and another volunteer radiologist interprets those studies.

Subsequently, about 90 VIM Clinics have opened around the country using a similar model of practice. In 2021, the umbrella organization for those clinics, VIM America, merged into the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics (NAFC), which operates about 1,400 free and charitable clinics.

If volunteering at a VIM or other type of charitable clinic is of interest to you, visit the NAFC website for more information or search to find a clinic near you. If you want to inquire further, contact the clinic directly or complete the NAFC form about your interests (you are not committed to volunteering by completing the form). Someone from NAFC will contact you and help you further.

The NAFC website does not routinely list the radiology services at the various clinics, so a little further investigation might be required to see if your local clinic is a fit for you. Radiology needs and resources will vary from clinic to clinic, and they won’t all provide radiology services. Most of the clinics with imaging services will probably include radiography and/or ultrasound.

Patients often need to be sent to local radiology practices for other imaging modalities. If your former radiology practice can help patients from such clinics, that is wonderful too! Aside from the specific imaging needs and capabilities of the clinic, you may want to ask about licensing, CME and malpractice insurance. Some states have less onerous requirements for volunteer medical licenses and CME requirements. South Carolina, for example, has a special volunteer medical license. Many clinics provide malpractice insurance.

Another great thing about this type of opportunity is that you can volunteer as little or as much as you want. And you can generally set your own schedule within the limits of the specific clinic. If you happen to live near Hilton Head, we can always use more radiology help, but multiple opportunities exist around the country if this sort of volunteer work appeals to you.