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Month: August 2021

There’s a Dearth of Volunteers at Free Clinics

Note: This article was originally published as part of the Q2 2021 issue of the WFCC Newsletter and is reproduced here with permission. See original:

When I walk into St. Anne’s in the waning light of a summer evening, I often turn myself around at the door looking out towards Worcester. Peeking out over the treetops that line the parking lot are the gleaming buildings of UMass Medical School. In the shadow of the largest medical center in central Massachusetts, literally less than 3500 feet away across Lake Quinsigamond, there is a tremendous need for healthcare.

This stark contrast serves as an ironic backdrop for the volunteers who steadfastly donate their time and energy in service of our community. Without their contributions, the substantial impact of free medical programs would not be possible.

During the pandemic, the entire healthcare system has been on unsteady ground. A number of initiatives have been in place since then to ensure that patients are continued to be cared for, including telehealth services, modified check-in procedures, and appointment based visits. In this issue, we interview Dr. James Ledwith, the medical director of Epworth, about how he guided the program’s efforts to remain open to in-person visits and the challenges the program faced during the pandemic to maintain their ability to see walk-in patients.

Yet we also recognize that there is opportunity for more volunteers to help ensure that our commitment to the community can be sustained through the future. A common refrain amongst free medical programs throughout the country is the need for “dollars and doctors” as well as nurses, case managers, interpreters, and a multitude of other volunteers.

How do we ensure that the free medical programs are sustainable through the future? There are two important steps: (1) ensure that we have enough clinical and administrative volunteers, and (2) get the support of community institutions like local businesses and healthcare organizations. This may involve direct funding through grants, covering the malpractice insurance of providers who choose to volunteer outside of their practice, or by subsidizing essential services that patients require such as labs, imaging or specialist visits.

Beyond this, a number of potential initiatives with community organizations and healthcare partners. For example, some free clinics offer malpractice insurance, but this is a costly proposition. Alternatively, many employers offer coverage if their providers volunteer in the community.

One of the biggest issues facing free medical programs in greater Worcester is the immense need for in-person interpreters. This is a critical way to better connect with patients, who are often immigrants or visiting family members. Having interpreters available allows patients to feel understood, both from a conversational perspective, but also a cultural perspective.

If you are interested in volunteering or supporting the mission of the Worcester Free Care Collaborative, please visit for more information or email

In a previous issue, we discussed How Stories in Medicine Connect Us. Elizabeth Dunn, a researcher who studies happiness and charity, explains that cultivating a connection with the community is one of the most effective ways to make a strong, positive impact. Volunteering at the free medical programs offers a tremendous opportunity to serve the community and “appreciate our shared humanity.”


“The Demand for Volunteer Physicians is Rising The Demand for Volunteer Physicians Is Rising. The Number of Uninsured Is Too,” by Joseph Darius Jaafari, October 27, 2017.

“Is There A (Volunteer) Doctor In The House? Free Clinics And Volunteer Physician Referral Networks In The United States,” by Stephen L. Isaacs and Paul Jellinek, May 1, 2007.

“Making the Most of Free Medical Clinic Experience,” by Rachel Rizal, February 23, 2021.

Thoughts on the iPad Pro

I will admit that this is quite late. I had most of this written a while back, but my use case has changed over time, as has the software experience, so I wanted to update my thoughts.

With the release of iPadOS and the new keyboard and trackpad case, discussion has been renewed surrounding whether or not the iPad Pro can be used as a laptop replacement. While the capabilities of the iPad have been steadily increasing with each update, this particular one is quite promising for power users and productivity geeks.

However, I think that this discussion misses the entire point of an iPad — it’s not meant to be a laptop replacement, regardless of how Apple markets it. In fact, I would argue that the iPad is powerful because it is not a laptop replacement. It is a secondary device. This is justified by its place in Apple’s lineup and their incredible hesitation to put macOS or full desktop class apps, despite what their ads may show.

It doesn’t really make sense for Apple to want to cannibalize the sales of Macs. However, it is likely that the iPad is significantly more lucrative for them, with a wider profit margin. Plus, being a cheaper device overall, more people might want it as they pivot to a different type of computing experience, which is why if more people start using the iPad as their primary device it might still be a good deal for Apple.

Therefore, I do not see the iPad as a replacement for my laptop. In fact, even though it is one of the most powerful mobile devices, I rarely use it as anything more than a glorified clipboard or piece of paper.

Yet despite being one of the most powerful mobile devices, I rarely use it as anything more than a glorified clipboard or piece of paper. Slowly, I’ve been trying to use it in different ways for more situations.

The biggest improvement so far has been turning Safari into a “desktop-class” browser. This means that I can have multiple Google Drive documents open, with research and webpages side by side.

As students, I think that the iPad Pro has the potential to be a gamechanger. For me, the original intent was to get the iPad just that I could use the Apple Pencil to take notes. It’s always better to take notes by hand because the act of writing helps solidify information into your head, but also the slower pace allows you to distill that information to its most important form.

The very limitations allow this format to succeed. In addition you get the flexibility to draw diagrams, include premade pictures, and copy and paste information from various sources.

However, what I found is that I rarely looked back through my notes

My style is to use one notebook for multiple subjects which made each interspersed with another. This was prevented it from being useful as a resource when studying. Now, granted this isn’t the best method and maybe simply changing to a better organizational strategy may have helped.

However, I saw the iPad as a way to simply reduce the friction of going back through my notes. As James Clear says in Atomic Habits, this is the most important step to encourage a specific behavior.

I also wanted a device that would be able to run fore flight, which pushed me towards the iPad as opposed to the Thinkpad.

I didn’t want a laptop replacement, not at all. I do a lot of multitasking with an absurdly large amount of chrome tabs open researching multiple topics, having multiple desktops spread across multiple days of work and thoughts on different topics; for this I have a Thinkpad with 20 GB of RAM which suffices just fine.

Because I had this laptop already, I was much more willing to get an iPad as a secondary device for school.

What I didn’t realize about the iPad was that the limitations in multitasking actually proved to be a positive.

Using the keyboard case that Apple sells actually slows down my typing rate compared to the Thinkpad keyboard. However, the actual amount that I can write at a time has drastically increased. For me, I think it can be attributed to the terrible multitasking system on the iPad that actually forces me to focus.

At the end of the day, my justification for getting the iPad was quite simple — it makes doing the things that I already do easier. In particular, whenever I take notes I always use a pencil and paper. There’s a lot of evidence that shows improved understanding and retention when physically writing with you hand. However, the downside of this method as study revision when exam time come up. I almost never am able to go through my notes in an effective and timely manner, and this makes me put off studying until the last minute.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, then I think it is absolutely worth it. Moreover, I use the iPad extensively while flying. For these particular use cases, I feel that it is the perfect secondary device.

While of course I yearn for the iPad to run full blown macOS, and even more so now with the introduction of the M1 chip in the iPad, I do think that the specific limitations actually lend themselves extremely well to using the iPad in a very specific manner—it’s not meant to be a laptop replacement, but rather an augmentation—a secondary device where you need to focus on a specific task at a time. For this purpose the iPad is almost perfectly executed, especially with the new features for power users.

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