Las Vegas Sun

May 20, 2018

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FINDLAY GOOD WORKS:

Volunteers in Medicine strives for more inclusive health care

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L.E. Baskow

Jaime Weller-Lafavor, who earned her master’s in social work at UNLV, became CEO of Volunteers in Medicine of Southern Nevada this month after working nearly five years as director of development at the St. Rose Dominican Health Foundation.

Jaime Weller-Lafavor

• Title: CEO

• Agency address: Ruffin Family Clinic, 1240 N. Martin Luther King Blvd.; Paradise Park Clinic, 4770 Harrison Drive, Suite 200

• Agency phone number: 702-967-0530

• Agency website: vmsn.org

• Hours of operation for Ruffin Family Clinic: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; noon-8 p.m. Tuesday

• Hours of operation for Paradise Park Clinic: noon-8 p.m. Tuesday; 4-8 p.m. the first Thursday of each month

• To volunteer: Dental volunteers are especially needed, but all medical and nonmedical help is appreciated. Call 702-967-0530, ext. 208, to learn how to help.

What is Findlay Good Works?

Good Works is a twice-monthly series in The Sunday in which we highlight the efforts of nonprofit groups that are making a difference in our community. You can check out the good work of more organizations by visiting facebook.com/FindlayAutoGroup.

What does your organization do? Volunteers in Medicine of Southern Nevada’s mission is to provide quality health care and support for people without access. A dedicated group of volunteer physicians, dentists, nurses, medical students, specialty medical groups, imaging and laboratory companies, and hospitals provide free visits, laboratory and radiology tests, and medication for patients who are among our community’s most vulnerable.

Our core belief is that health care is a right, not a privilege. The need is great, and we cannot do it alone. We are fortunate to have the support of donors, volunteers, hospitals, corporations, partner nonprofit organizations, professional schools and universities that share our belief that health care should be more inclusive.

Currently, VMSN is the medical home for more than 2,700 Southern Nevadans.

When and why was Volunteers in Medicine established? VMSN was established in 2008 by Dr. Florence Jameson, OB/GYN, and her husband, Gard Jameson, a philanthropist and professor in the philosophy department at UNLV. They knew there were many who lacked access to medical care and searched for a cost-effective model to replicate. The program modeled was the Volunteers in Medicine Clinic in Hilton Head Island, S.C., which opened 25 years ago.

Our first clinic opened in 2010 at Paradise Park. Our second, the Ruffin Family Clinic, opened in 2015 near downtown, and allowed VMSN to serve more patients and expand the scope of services to include dental, social and behavioral health programs.

Who are your clients? Our patients are Southern Nevada residents who live at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level — which is $23,760 for an individual — are not eligible for Medicaid/Medicare and cannot afford adequate health insurance coverage.

What are your goals? To raise funds to ensure quality health care to our patients. We also need volunteers — nurses, family practice and internal medicine physicians, social workers, dentists, dental hygienists and dental assistants. While these professions represent our biggest need, we welcome all who are interested in nonmedical volunteer opportunities.

Annually, it costs approximately $2 million to run VMSN. That might sound like a lot, but we provide more than $10 million in care.

What services might the community not know about? VMSN is the leading provider of primary charitable medical care in Nevada, and we provide much more than just medical care. We are working toward providing a more holistic form of health care. With the recent addition of dental, social and behavioral health programs, we are closer than ever to accomplishing that goal. There is discussion about adding vision care in the future.

What sparked your interest in the nonprofit sector? As a child, I learned the importance of giving back when I accompanied my grandfather, Bill, to deliver meals to shut-in senior citizens in Austin, Texas. He delivered so much more than food. He delivered kindness and hope, as my grandfather was often the only social interaction those seniors had with the outside world. This experience ignited the desire to dedicate myself to making a difference in my community.

What can Southern Nevadans do to improve our community in general? Look for ways to be connected to one another and be the change that you want to see in the world. Too often, I hear about how hard it is to live in Las Vegas, and for many that is the case. The Oct. 1 tragedy demonstrated how our community can come together during a time of crisis. Our challenge now is to keep that sense of community and connection going. My suggestion is to volunteer and donate to organizations that match your interests. Your efforts will be a win-win for you and the community.

What can people do to get involved in the cause you serve? Volunteers are the lifeblood of our organization, and the more volunteers we have, the more we can accomplish. We have more than 600 volunteers at VMSN, and when people say “it takes a village,” they aren’t kidding.

Whom do you admire? People who make a difference for others. Our founder, Dr. Florence Jameson, is one of those people. She had a dream, rallied the community around the cause and continues to advocate for those most in need.

Where do you see your organization in five years? Doing what we are doing but on a much larger scale. Not only will our dental, social and behavioral health programs be expanded, but there is a possibility of a third clinic in Henderson.