It came as no surprise to Volunteers in Medicine’s volunteers, staff and supporters that founder Dr. Jack McConnell was inducted into the Hilton Head Island Rotary Hall of Fame in November 2015. Membership in this group is an honor that has been accorded to only nine other visionaries and community leaders.
To celebrate and commemorate this remarkable achievement, the VIM family will gather May 10 at the Poseidon Rooftop in Shelter Cove Towne Centre for an unforgettable evening of tributes, nostalgia, music, dining, friendship and celebration.
It all started with a simple question at the dining room table when Dr. McConnell was young. His father, a Methodist preacher, would ask his children, “What have you done for someone today?”
“Jack has always had a deep concern for the less fortunate,” said Mary Ellen McConnell, Dr. Jack’s partner in life and a crucial force behind his efforts.
“Jack would ask why someone wasn’t doing something about access to healthcare for the one-third of our neighbors who did without,” she said. “He finally realized that he was talking to himself.”
Dr. McConnell’s vision was deceptively simple: to satisfy the overwhelming need for access to free healthcare through the skills and expertise of the highly skilled retired physicians, nurses and laypeople already living on Hilton Head.
“Jack has always enjoyed a challenge, and the huge obstacles of obtaining affordable malpractice insurance and licensure for the volunteer physicians provided just that kind of test,” his wife said. “He was not to be defeated.”
When Volunteers in Medicine opened on Hilton Head more than 20 years ago, it was the first in the nation. Today, there are 96 VIM clinics around the country built on this model. Over the years, Dr. McConnell has been honored on national, state and local levels.
VIM clinics nationwide serve as invaluable community resources by keeping entire families healthy, out of the emergency room, and able to work or attend school.
Indeed, the Hilton Head economy depends on many of VIM’s patients who are the “working poor.” They are the workers who serve the active, tourism-driven economy. Last year, VIM provided more than 30,000 patient visits.
While Dr. Jack is no longer able to visit the local VIM clinic, his inspiration is felt there – and at VIM clinics across the country – on a daily basis. As he has emphasized over the years, “It’s not where you come from or where you’re going, but who you help along the way that makes a difference in your life.”
The May 10 celebration will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $75 each and are available by calling 843-689-6612.
Ginger Allen is the director of development for Volunteers in Medicine Hilton Head Island.