Volunteer: Health clinic made me angry, made me act, make me care

Updated
Susan Buechel Conklin volunteers at one of the NAFC Clinics
Susan Buechel Conklin volunteers at one of the NAFC Clinics
Image provided by NAFC

Susan Buechel Conklin volunteered with the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics at many care clinics in the past to help bring free health care to those who need it. She wrote for msnbc about what inspired her to volunteer, and what she gained from the experience.

Having retired from the Department of Defense School System in England and having completed our self-sustaining little mountain retirement home, my husband and I thought “What’s next?”  My husband Jim had volunteered with Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans in 2007 and shortly thereafter we learned of a health clinic that would be offered there, and they were looking for volunteers. Perfect! We jumped at the opportunity.

My career had been as a registered nurse in various fields of medicine but I wanted to try something different. I volunteered for a non-medical spot. From the get-go I was fascinated by the idea of medical personnel seeing so many people in a convention hall in one day: How could it possibly be organized to accomplish such a feat? What services would be offered? How would it flow? How could I fit in?

Well, it took no time at all to find my niche. Many things impressed me right off the bat: the organizers, the volunteers, the optimism, the joy on one side and the amount of under-insured and uninsured people on the other, the sheer number of folks wanting to see a doctor, so patient, so humble, so appreciative, so real.

I was actually blown away by the number of people who were standing in line to get in to see a doctor. I was back in the United States after 20 years and I couldn’t believe it.  This didn’t happen in the UK. This didn’t happen in Puerto Rico. Everyone there had access to health care. EVERYONE.

After New Orleans I knew I wanted to be a part of this National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics, the C.A.R.E clinics and have only missed one and hopefully will never miss another.  My volunteer position has made me appreciate what I have—health care—and has also given me a glimpse at the number of Americans who do not have health care. It has angered me. It has made me call politicians. It has made me care. It has made me act and has made me vocal. I am so grateful to be a part of a huge team of caring individuals whose goal is to help fellow human beings get health care with dignity and respect. This team doesn’t say no. Every member is there to find solutions, to make it work, to offer hope and to do it with a smile and open arms.

I am a lucky woman to be a volunteer with this team.


msnbc and Reverend Sharpton will team up with the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics to offer another free clinic like the one Susan volunteered at on July 3. Please consider volunteering as Susan did or donating money to the cause if you’re unable.

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Volunteer: Health clinic made me angry, made me act, make me care

Updated