Retired orthopaedists help needyFulfill lifelong desire to stay active, help medically underserved
Luther M. Strayer III, MD left,
and Edward D. Sugarman, MD, right, discuss
fractured olecrannon of Tim Glover, center.
By Sandra Lee Breisch
The spirit of volunteerism runs deep among orthopaedic surgeons. Take the semi-retired, 83-year old Leslie M. Bodnar, MD. He spends Monday afternoons doing nonsurgical consults for the indigent at Saint Joseph's Health Center-commonly referred to as Chapin Street Clinic, a member of Saint Joseph's Regional Medical Center in South Bend, Ind.
Dr. Bodnar is one of 75 volunteers at Chapin, who provides free medical services for patients ineligible for Medicaid and Medicare, other health insurance programs and/or fall below the 150 percent poverty level. Although patients are encouraged to donate $5 for a doctor's visit, Dr. Bodnar says, "We see them whether we collect it or not."
"We have what I believe is an exemplary health care clinic in South Bend that extends beyond the walls of the clinic," says Dr. Bodnar. For instance, when a patient needs surgery, he says, most of the other orthopaedists in the community will see Chapin patients in their offices and conduct surgery at Saint Joseph's Regional Medical Center.
At South Bend Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine, where Dr. Bodnar practices part-time, any one of his nine colleagues will perform surgery on Chapin patients. "Dr. Bodnar will say, 'I've a hip that needs to be done, please help me out,' and he'll assist on that patient's surgery in the OR, too," explains Frederick J. Ferlic, MD.
"I don't get paid for the surgery and neither do the other orthopaedic surgeons," says Dr. Bodnar. "The hospital costs are donated by Saint Joseph's Regional Medical Center. However, we do spend some money on medications for the patients. But a lot of medications are donated by pharmaceutical companies or we'll pick up samples from doctor's offices who want to donate."
Dr. Bodnar says Chapin gives patients the same care that they would to paying patients. "We treat them compassionately-maybe more considerate than others sometimes because they've other considerations, and the community appreciates it too," says Dr. Bodnar.
"Dr. Bodnar has instilled a sense of volunteerism that will carry on for years with a number of orthopaedists, especially his younger partners," says Dr. Ferlic. "We all feel we're fortunate to stand upon the shoulders of a giant and that's what Dr. Bodnar is."
Volunteers at Chapin don't worry about malpractice insurance either, notes Dr. Bodnar. "Our retired physicians working in the clinic are covered by a malpractice insurance policy carried by the hospital that covers those physicians employed by the hospital and those under their jurisdiction."
Since July 1995, Luther M. Strayer, III, MD, of Volunteers in Medicine (VIM) Clinic in Hilton Head Island, S.C., also found an answer to his heartfelt dream after retiring: giving free care to people who live or work on Hilton Head Island or Dautuski Island.
"It's sort of a bittersweet story here," explains Dr. Strayer. "One end of the Island is a wealthy golf-tennis, partial retirement community and the other is poor."
To meet their community's health care needs, VIM was jointly developed and funded in 1994 by a number of business and civic leaders in the state, as well as leaders from the medically underserved community and retired medical professionals. Today, VIM has more than 300 volunteers, including 60 physicians, 50 nurses, plus pharmacists, dentists, clinical assistants, other health care professionals and 150 lay volunteers. The 7,000-square-foot clinic is equipped with six exam rooms and other medical facilities.
There's "less stress, anxieties and worries [in volunteerism]," says the 63-year old Dr. Strayer. "It's also a nice way to give something back to the community and keep your brain active in what you've been doing your whole life."
The VIM facility and staff are covered by the Joint Underwriters Association, which provides full malpractice insurance coverage for all volunteers at the clinic. However, the medical staff has to obtain a state volunteer license, notes Dr. Strayer.
Edward D. Sugarman, MD, is also a volunteer there. "I see about 12 patients in the morning-some are appointments and others walk-ins," explains the 68-year old orthopaedist. "What's great about this clinic is my access to a multidisciplinary team of medical experts. For instance, a patient might walk in with a back problem, but has symptoms of hypertension. I can turn around and say, 'Charlie, can you see so and so?' The pleasure is we can take as much time as we want-or as little time as we want with each patient. So they all get good care."