Doctors make a difference in their patients’ lives every day, but, for many, the boundaries of their medical practice are not enough. Medical professionals around the globe are known to spend time helping others through philanthropy and volunteer work, which in turn often gives them inspiration and renewed passion for the profession and helps prevent burnout from the day-to-day routine of practicing medicine. While many participate in trips to third-world countries, other doctors are making an impact right here in the Charleston community. Here are four of those doctors’ stories:
Dr. Eddie White Jr.
Dr. Eddie White spends his time outside of his dental practice creating a community through music known as Awendaw Green. For about nine years, Dr. White has been hosting “barn jams” almost every Wednesday night in Awendaw, giving local, regional, national and even international artists a platform to perform and a built-in audience excited to hear them. Not only benefiting the artists with an audience eager to hear good music, Awendaw Green provides a sense of community for those old and new – a new family formed by mingling around music and spending time at the rustic, comfortable venue.
“There’s something magical about this spot up here that people feel comfortable and relationships grow quickly,” Dr. White said. “Awendaw Green is not only a great springboard for artists, but it is transformative. Any given Wednesday, there can be an audience ranging from 70 to 400 people, based on the weather. It’s hyper-local, hyper-Lowcountry and not a lot of pretentiousness. It’s preachers and cops and grandmothers and newborns and me and you.”
Dr. Jim Hayes
Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic
Dr. Jim Hayes, who retired from practicing internal medicine in 2005, began volunteering for the Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic in 2009. Today, he is the chairman of the board of directors for the organization while still seeing patients weekly.
The Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic provides free medical care to eligible patients, similar to any family practitioner or internist. The clinic serves uninsured adults living at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level who live or work on Johns Island, Wadmalaw Island or James Island. It is staffed by volunteer medical staff and supported through fundraising efforts, generous donations and grant writing. The clinic receives no federal or state funds.
“I love to see patients and have enjoyed the practice of medicine for over 35 years. Roper St. Francis does all of our labs and X-ray studies at no cost to us, and I can practice medicine here just like I did in West Ashley,” said Dr. Hayes. “We are filling a need in the community and do preventive medicine as well as follow-up on conditions like diabetes. It’s fun for me to get back into practicing medicine, and I am very pleased to see patients here. They never hesitate to say ‘thank you.’”
Dr. Marcelo Hochman, MD
The Hemangioma Treatment Foundation
The Hemangioma Treatment Foundation is a small, private charitable organization that provides treatment for children with vascular anomalies who cannot afford or do not have access to care. The Foundation also educates physicians in the management of these problems. A hemangioma – the most common form of a benign tumor in infancy – is more than a cosmetic issue because it can become psychologically damaging and physiologically dangerous.
Dr. Marcelo Hochman’s son had a hemangioma, which inspired him to start the Foundation.
“Though my son’s hemangioma was small and did not require treatment, the condition intrigued me,” said Dr. Hochman. “The more I learned about it, the more I realized how common they are and that the prevailing medical dogma of ‘leave it alone and it will go away’ didn’t make sense. I’m lucky to have been involved in changing how these tumors are treated.”
Since it began, the Foundation has treated hundreds of children in Charleston who hail from the United States and around the world. While every treatment is different depending on the severity of a child’s hemangioma, the median cost for surgery is approximately $12,500.
“I was raised with a deep sense of responsibility to use your skills for the benefit of the general community, not just for yourself. As a surgeon, I am privileged to be entrusted with the ability to help children have a chance for a normal life. I cannot imagine a more just thing to do,” he said.
Drs. Todd Vasko and Phillip McGaha
Medical Campus Outreach
Giving back to the community sometimes means first helping the helpers. Medical Campus Outreach was started in the early 1990s by a group of medical school friends who were inspired by their Christian beliefs to be not only competent as doctors but also to practice with compassion and character, and to mentor fellow students to do the same. Dr. Todd Vasko started the branch at the Medical University of South Carolina in 1993, and his former classmate, Dr. Phillip McGaha, joined him in the effort in 1996.
Today, between 100 and 150 MUSC students are mentored each week.
“As a doctor, you can be competent but not have compassion or character, and therefore not be excellent. We mentor any medical student, regardless of their religion, to build that compassion and character to help them be excellent in their professions,” Dr. Vasko explained. “It’s an all-in thing for me and my family. We have students rotating through that we mentor in our practice so they can see us live with compassion and character at work. Many students have lived in our house as they struggle through issues, marriage, career and more. Any day of the week, students are sitting around my living room table doing homework, studying, eating meals with our family or even going on vacation with us – whatever it takes to show them what it means to live and work with compassion and character.”