Caring for Our Community Together

By Joel Henderson, Executive Director Volunteers in Medicine

"Volunteers in Medicine had a need," says Mitchell Mutter, MD. That's all it took for the retired physician to agree to donate his time and professional talents to serve as the local Volunteers in Medicine, Medical Director in a completely Volunteer capacity since Fall of 2020. Dr. Mutter began volunteering at the clinic over 15 years ago, helping patients in support of the non-profits health ministry in providing free, primary care for the uninsured in the greater Chattanooga community.

Last year, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic challenges, the VIM clinic pivoted its healthcare model and served 2,586 patients from the area's underserved population, offering primary care services coordinated by a small staff and 80+ dedicated volunteer providers. “Without VIM’s help, I would have probably worried myself even sicker.” Melissa Carvalho, VIM Chattanooga Patient. “I wish that more people know about VIM, because there’s so many people that are struggling.” Melissa is employed, however doesn’t receive health insurance through her job. So, like many of VIM’s patients, whom are working adults without regular access to preventative medical care. Melissa also hasn’t been back to the emergency department for care since becoming a VIM patient.

The VIM clinic is open Monday through Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and continuing to accept new patients whom are uninsured. “At this time, interested individuals are encouraged to call the clinic to coordinate an appointment time to pick up and complete an application,” says Dr. Mutter. “The screening process determines eligibility for services.” Applicants must be aged 19-64 with no insurance, and a household income at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. “Generally, the process takes a week or less before the patients first appointment, added Dr. Mutter. “And once approved our patients never see a bill.”

Dr. Holly Gadd, Dean and Professor of Nursing at Southern Adventist University leads the volunteer efforts of VIM’s Nurse Practitioners. Having also been involved since the clinic was founded in 2004. Holly notes that Melissa’s story mirrors that of so many of VIM’s patients. “We care for patients who come in, that have not been seen for primary care in years and a list of chronic health issues, ranging from diabetes to severe kidney and heart failure,” shares Holly. The VIM clinic also assists in obtaining medications for patients, at no or at a very low cost.

“Over Sixteen years ago, local churches and community leaders came together to plan and fund VIM’s free, faith-based medical clinic for our low income friends and neighbors without health insurance based on Matthew 25,” shares Joel Henderson VIM Executive Director. “At a time when we are all experiencing many changes and challenges, generosity for the common good is what brings people together. Our amazing volunteers and community funding partners from area churches, foundations and businesses of all sizes, are great examples of generous collaborative partnerships; making a real impact together in helping serve those in the greatest of need.”

The effects of the COVID crisis also resulted in the cancellation of VIM’s special fundraising events. “Fortunately, our 15th Annual Golf charity tournament is back on for September 17, at Brown Acres,” shares Henderson. “As well as, an inaugural Gowns for Good luncheon and fashion show charity auction on November 3, at the Mill.” VIM also hopes to once again host its ‘5K Fun Run’ in the Spring of 2022 in partnership with the annual JFEST music event.

At the end of 2020 the VIM charitable medical clinic had logged well over 75,000 patient visits valued at more than $25 million at clinic rates and $109 million at conservative Emergency Room rates. The Volunteers in Medicine primary care clinic is located at 5705 Marlin Road, Suite 1400 in Chattanooga. “If you know where the Krispy Kreme landmark is in East Brainerd, we’re just across the street by bus stop #4,” adds Henderson.

To learn more about VIM Chattanooga including corporate partnerships, volunteer participation opportunities or services provided, visit www.vim-chatt.org or call the clinic at 423-855-8220. Also connect and follow through social media at http://www.facebook.com/vimchatt and http://www.instagram.com/vim_chatt/.