Case and Commentary
Jan 2005

Indigent Care: Volunteering at the Clinic

Abraham P. Schwab, MA
Virtual Mentor. 2005;7(1):117-120. doi: 10.1001/virtualmentor.2005.7.1.ccas20-0501.


Dr. Mills has been volunteering one day a week at a free neighborhood health clinic that serves those with state medical cards as well as homeless individuals who walk in for acute care. On other days, Dr. Mills is part of an internal medicine practice group with five other physicians. Even though Dr. Mills receives less compensation because he is only in the office four days a week, his partners recently have been increasingly critical of his volunteer work on "practice time." One of their arguments is that some portion of office and patients' fees covers office expenses, and since he is only there four days a week, he is not paying his share. In his own defense, Dr. Mills has been arguing that the profession requires volunteer work and that his partners should commit some time to the free clinic.

What should Dr. Mills do about his volunteer work? (select an option)

A. Attempt to convince the others in his practice that physicians have a professional obligation to provide medical services to the poor.

B. Make arrangements to volunteer at the clinic at times that interfere less with his practice hours.

C. Seek employment at an institution that provides care to the uninsured and underserved.

D. Discontinue his volunteer work for the time being, and hope that other physicians will take his place.


Virtual Mentor. 2005;7(1):117-120.



The people and events in this case are fictional. Resemblance to real events or to names of people, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.The viewpoints expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the AMA.