by Shannon Carmignani.
What is your most meaningful community service experience or clinical experience to date?
Volunteering at the Good Samaritan Health Clinic was the most gratifying experience of my life. At first, my tasks were menial; answering phone calls, checking patients in, and organizing patient charts. But I quickly learned that these small tasks accumulated into something much larger. These tasks allowed physicians to help the people of my community.
Individuals fear that they may deteriorate or die from a curable disease, and this fear drives them to look for help anywhere they can find it.
The Good Samaritan Health Clinic provides free healthcare to the uninsured. Most people do not even realize clinics like this exist. Many believe that because they don’t have health insurance, they cannot afford healthcare. As a result, the sick get sicker and hope is slowly lost. Individuals fear that they may deteriorate or die from a curable disease, and this fear drives them to look for help anywhere they can find it. Unfortunately, without insurance, they are turned away immediately from traditional sources of healthcare, forced to endure further pain and suffering in what becomes a vicious cycle. By the time a potential patient calls our clinic, the desperation and frustration is obvious. The once “menial” task of answering phone calls afforded me the great gift of being the person that delivered life-changing news: “Yes, we can help you and yes, it will be free.” The reaction on the other line was usually disbelief. They would ask the same questions in different ways until the truth finally sunk in. Next, they would usually cry, thank me, and finally, allow me to schedule their first visit. It easily became my very favorite responsibility at the clinic.
Growing up in an upper-middle-class home in Fairfield County, Connecticut, I took many things for granted, healthcare being one of them. Volunteering at the clinic changed the way I see the world and the people in it. Time and time again, I was able to watch our patients transform; from sick and angry, to healthy, cheerful, and kind individuals. They just needed basic care and needed to be treated like human beings again.
When I first started volunteering at Good Samaritan Health Clinic, I already knew that I wanted to become a physician, but witnessing these transformations made me realize how vital volunteerism is for our communities. The entire clinic was run by volunteers, from the physicians and nurses to the administrative assistants, and it was entirely funded by donations. I recognize that doctors earn CE credits for volunteering, but these physicians were giving many more hours than were required. These physicians were volunteering because they cared, and they have inspired me to do the same. Because of my experiences, I have gained a greater sense of compassion for people of all walks of life.
My life goal of becoming a physician has been enhanced by a yearning to help those in need. Following residency, I hope to volunteer at a similar organization, but this time as a physician. I hope that my efforts will inspire others to do the same.
by Shannon Carmignani
School: Kent University School of Podiatric Medicine
Volunteer Experience: Good Samaritan Health Clinic
Student, Lifestyle, Community Service
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