Pro Bono. This is a term that is largely subscribed and attributed to the legal practice. However, in recent years there has been an upsurge of pro bono activity that the medical community has participated in. TSLMS believes in giving back to our community and one of the best ways to do this is through pro bono work.
What is Pro Bono?
According to Merriam Webster, pro bono is defined as “being, involving, or doing professional and especially legal work donated especially for the public good.” In the medical profession this usually means applying some of our time into volunteer opportunities. Sometimes this means teaching, sometimes it means providing direct services to people who are uninsured or underinsured, poor, and/or sometimes living in places without access to good medical care. And while there is no requirement among TSLMS members, or any medical professionals, for pro bono work, most of us, as the Washington Post reports, feel compelled to give back in this way.
The truth is that some physicians have not been involved in pro bono work, though most are. Monitoring of such service could make pro bono work a part of every physician’s practice. Aside from the value to the community, the medical profession would benefit greatly. Who really knows what we do without being paid for it? Practically nobody but us.
If the public realized how much physicians contribute, it would enhance our reputation and our image. It would also induce all physicians to participate in pro bono work.
How to Find Volunteer Opportunities
There are plenty of opportunities for plastic surgeons and dermatologists to give back to their communities, and literally an entire world of opportunities through organized groups.
The American Academy of Dermatology has a website that outlines many of these, including:
- Access Derm which is a website that allows dermatologists to remotely serve populations without local doctors. Teledermatology services will be coordinated through Qualified Healthcare Centers that have collaborated with the AAD AccessDerm program. The primary care provider will initiate a derm consult via AccessDerm by uploading patient consult request. This request will be transmitted to a dermatologist who will then review the case and provide feedback to the patient’s primary care provider. AccessDerm offers store-and-forward technology (photos, teledermoscopy images, tele dermatopathology images, and short videos) between referring clinicians and dermatologists.
- Camp Discovery which is a camp for children with skin problems, depends on dedicated medical staff and counselors who volunteer their time to ensure that the campers are safe, their medical needs are attended to, and that they have fun! Volunteers can select the week that is most convenient for them. For those that need to fly, airfare is paid for by the American Academy of Dermatology. Each location accepts a number of medical staff.
- Health Volunteers Overseas partners with AAD and other medical organizations to provide opportunities for dermatologists to train local health care providers, giving them the knowledge and skills to make a difference in their own communities. Academy-funded travel grants are available through HVO for those who have a confirmed HVO assignment. Opportunities for dermatologists experienced in burn or wound care with HVO burn management or wound and lymphedema management programs also may be available.
Doctors Without Borders also has opportunities for volunteering overseas, and at home and many religious groups organize medical missions as well.
The Benefits of Volunteering
Doing good for the community is good for you and your practice. In fact there are plenty of studies that have demonstrated these correlations. Enough evidence exists on this that we are comfortable standing behind the claim as well.
As HelpGuide.com points, some of these benefits are geared toward your mental health:
- Volunteering connects you to others.
- Volunteering is good for your mind and body.
- Volunteering can advance your career.
- Volunteering brings fun and fulfillment to your life.
In particular, the advancement of your career and the gain to your practice is a solid reason to spend some time doing Pro Bono work.
Volunteering can also help you build upon skills you already have and use them to benefit the greater community. For instance, if you hold a successful sales position, you can raise awareness for your favorite cause as a volunteer advocate, while further developing and improving your public speaking, communication, and marketing skills. (Source).
Forbes is much more poignant in their approach to this topic:
[We] would advise people to make a list of nonprofit organizations within their geographic footprint that work with those causes. Then decide what type of time commitment would fit in with their professional and personal schedule. From that point it’s simply a matter of making a phone call, because nearly all nonprofits are overly eager to accept those willing to volunteer and bring them into the fold… Based on your area of interest or experience, make your services available to the organization. Common areas for volunteering are: marketing, communications, events, research and development, data entry, tutoring, mentoring, graphic design, among others…
Nonprofits have spent a lot of time developing volunteer opportunities that would be beneficial to this demographic and make their organization more attractive. Nonprofits run very much like corporate entities, except for the funding component. For that reason, there are similar operational departments such as finance, human resources, special events, marketing & communications, fundraising or fund development, and recruitment that offer opportunities for Millennials to learn new, and often, extremely valuable skills. Program management, financial management and accounting, negotiation, event sponsorship and management, marketing, public relations and social media, web development, technology processes and system implementation, government relations, and board management are all key skills young professionals can learn and transfer to their own professions. Perhaps most important, they will get “hands-on” experience which makes the learning curve much faster.