How giving back benefits doctors, patients, and the community

Health care policy changes. Ever-increasing coding requirements. Managing a growing number of patients with chronic disease. With everything doctors have on their plates right now, giving back to their communities may be the last thing on their minds. Who has the extra time or money to volunteer or donate to numerous charities? Yet evidence shows that the rewards for doctors’ philanthropic efforts are far-reaching. Not only do patients and the community benefit, but it turns out doctors do, as well.

How giving back helps your practice

We’ve discussed before how giving back to their communities can actually help doctors attract new patients. Participating in volunteer efforts that are relevant to your target patients gets your name out there and positions you as an expert. For instance, “If you’re an orthopedic surgeon, conduct safe exercise seminars at your local YMCA; if you’re an oncologist, attend nearby cancer walks,” recommended Physicians Practice.

Even being a sponsor for a local charity event or fundraiser puts your practice in a positive light and shows your community what you value. It helps to cast a wide net, like Belill Eye Care in Clio, Mich. The clinic’s charitable giving includes not only health care-related organizations like the Sarcoma Foundation and the American Diabetes Association, but it also sponsors youth sports teams, the local Rotary Club, and the 4th of July fireworks. On a daily basis, the clinic uses Rendia’s patient education videos to raise awareness about important eye health issues.

Dr. Belill playing the Rendia video, Eye Testing for Preschool Children, at Children's Vision Day 2017 in Flint, MI

Dr. Belill playing the Rendia video, Eye Testing for Preschool Children, for volunteers and attendees at Children’s Vision Day 2017 in Flint, Mich.

Charitable efforts can help combat negative stereotypes that persist about doctors.

Charitable efforts can also help combat negative doctor stereotypes that persist. “Physicians have a reputation as not being very good givers,” said neonatologist Ed Karotkin, who serves as board chairman for Physicians for Peace and who volunteers and donates to several other causes, in Physicians Practice. “I’ve been to fundraisers where people will come up to me and say, ‘you’re one of the few doctors who really support the community.'”

Charitable giving is attractive to millennials

Philanthropy is especially important to that large demographic every business—including medical practices—is trying to attract: millennials. A recent Fortune poll found that Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 were more likely than their elders to want to work for, buy from, and recommend businesses that contribute to charity.

Millennials approach charity as an important lifestyle choice on par with work and consumer spending.

However, millennials’ approach to charity is very different from their parents’ and grandparents’. They are more likely to see philanthropy as “a lifestyle choice on par with work and consumer spending,” according to a recent article in the New York Times. Giving in name only doesn’t win them over; “they want to be able to see and measure how those gifts are making a unique impact,” reported the Times. Research suggests that millennials care about issues like education, health care, and the environment, “while institutional giving to many churches and schools, as well as in the workplace, may be less popular.”

This is a demographic that may not be impressed by a practice that only lends its name to charitable causes. They are more likely to notice doctors who are actively contributing to their communities.

How volunteering revived one doctor’s passion for medicine

While taking on even more patients seems like a direct route to burnout, surprisingly, it’s just the opposite for some doctors who volunteer their time to help underserved patients.

Volunteering revived a retired doctor’s passion for medicine, and uniquely prepared a medical student for his future clinical career.

Volunteering at a free medical clinic in Charleston, S.C., revived his passion for medicine, said retired OB-GYN Louis Weinstein, M.D., in AMA Wire. “Since the clinic operates on grants and government financing, I don’t have to work under the same time constraints as most physicians in private practice. I don’t have to see a patient every 15 minutes. There are no economics involved, and that’s what makes this so much fun.”

Doctors at any stage of their careers can benefit from volunteering. Working at a free clinic uniquely prepared Grant Turner, then a fourth-year student at University of Nebraska Medical Center, for a career in medicine, he told AMA Wire. “I’ve learned how to walk in the shoes of my patients and really understand the cultural and lifestyle factors that may contribute to health disparities for many people. Yet on the clinical side, I’ve learned all about the busy operations of how to run a clinic, paperwork, team building with your care staff—all that.” Those are skills that will help any young doctor in their future career.

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And see how Rendia is giving back to the eye care community in The 2017 Winners of Rendia’s Annual Optometry Student Scholarship.