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Volunteer Clinic Caveats

Doug Campos-Outcalt, MD, MPA
JAMA. 1991;266(6):793. doi:10.1001/jama.1991.03470060055010.
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To the Editor.  — Kleinman1 has written a valuable article on how physicians can help alleviate the harmful effects of the lack of financial access to health services by one in seven Americans. I would like to add a word of caution to two of his suggestions: (1) that physicians should volunteer at a clinic that offers services to indigent patients; and (2) that physicians should save pharmaceutical samples for patients who cannot afford to have prescriptions filled.After working for 3 years in two clinics that employed volunteer physicians, I have seen many examples of volunteers causing more harm than good. First, they have a tendency to cancel at the last minute, causing both staff and patients untold inconveniences.Volunteering should be undertaken as a firm commitment, with the intention that promises of service should not be broken. Physicians who volunteer should also learn about some of the


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