Jamie Lynch (far right) received the 2018 Outstanding Volunteer Clinical Practitioner of the Year award from Shepherd's Hope at its annual "Call to Hope" event in April. Also pictured (from left): Shepherd's Hope Founder Dr. William S. Barnes, President and CEO Marni Stahlman, and Dr. Ruth McKeefrey, Shepherd's Hope's first volunteer executive director for whom the awards are named.
Last month, Shepherd's Hope honored Jamie Lynch as Outstanding Volunteer Clinical Practitioner of the Year at its annual fundraising and volunteer recognition event, "Call to Hope." In addition to raising $210,000 in one-time gifts and multi-year pledges, the event also highlighted the work of 2,800 volunteer medical and lay personnel like Lynch who, in 2017, provided 44,000 hours of free medical care to the uninsured and underinsured at Shepherd's Hope's five local health clinics.
Ronald "Jamie" Lynch grew up in Miami. Early on, family members who were pharmacists and physicians influenced his decision to pursue a career in healthcare. Then, following a volunteer stint in a hospital emergency department, he was hooked.
Lynch graduated from the University of Central Florida in 1987 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing and earned his master's degree in Nursing with honors from the University of Florida in 1990. He has also held leadership roles with local chapters of American Heart Association and American Association of Critical Care Nurses.
His entire career has been at Orlando Health, starting as a student nurse and, for the past 28 years, as the first nurse practitioner with the Orlando Health Heart Institute where he considers Irwin Weinstein, MD, a lifelong mentor and fellow super hero.
A pioneer in Central Florida's nurse practitioner community, Lynch co-founded the Central Florida Advanced Nursing Practice Council in 1990. He also lectures nationwide on continuing education topics for nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
Fifteen years ago, Lynch became involved in Shepherd's Hope as a medical volunteer. Today, he also serves as chair of the Clinical Program Committee and a member of the Board of Directors. Here, he shares his thoughts and experiences in the hope that other healthcare professionals will take up the cause and join him.
How did you become involved in Shepherd's Hope?
In the late 1990s, former Shepherd's Hope board member Pia Valvassori was a public health clinician involved in starting the Healthcare Center for the Homeless and she recruited me to volunteer. Several years later, when their service model changed to a daytime clinic, I followed Pia to Shepherd's Hope, and the rest - as they say - is history.
Talk about the volunteer work you do with Shepherd's Hope.
I started in 2003, volunteering monthly at the now-closed Eatonville clinic, then transitioned to seeing patients at the Dr. Diebel, Jr. Memorial Shepherd's Hope Health Center in east Orange County. I also do monthly cardiology/internal medicine clinics at the Diebel clinic and the Ocoee clinic in west Orange County to manage patients who have been diagnosed with cardiology issues.
In addition, I took over Pia's role on the Shepherd's Hope board of directors and co-chair of the Clinical Program Committee. The role of the committee is to support the recruiting, training, recognition and retention of all Shepherd's Hope volunteers whose purpose is to ensure that the medical needs of eligible patients are met.
Is there a memorable patient encounter that is especially meaningful to you?
A recent example is the influx of Puerto Rican evacuees following hurricane Maria. They arrived in Central Florida after being homeless and without power for weeks. Many of them had a cardiology history. Shepherd's Hope met them at the airport, assessed their health situation, got them the immediate prescriptions they needed and then referred them to one of our clinics for outpatient follow-up.
More than half of these patients are Spanish-speaking only. When they arrive at the clinic, it can be a little fragmented between the interpreter, the scribe who is inputting notes, and me. They are often in despair and worried about their health problems; especially those who I see in the cardiology clinics. But when they realize we know how to treat them and have the resources to do so, it provides an incredible sense of relief for both the patient and their family.
What would you tell other medical professionals who may be interested in volunteering at Shepherd's Hope?
It's a rewarding opportunity to return to your roots and remember why you chose the medical profession. Thanks to the system Shepherd's Hope has in place, including the scribes who are primarily pre-med students, medical volunteers can focus on listening to the patient and providing care without having to worry about every DRG category and all the other documentation that is required these days. It's an incredibly gratifying experience.
"Access to quality healthcare for our neighbors in need has been the mission of Shepherd's Hope since 1997," explains President/CEO Marni Stahlman. "We could not fulfill our work of caring for the uninsured and underinsured without people like Jamie Lynch."
In recent years, the organization has been stretched far beyond its capacity. Despite providing 19,575 patient visits and medical services in 2017, Shepherd's Hope had to turn away another 900 patients because they didn't have the resources to meet their needs.
To learn more about how to become a Shepherd's Hope volunteer, contact Volunteer Program Manager Abby Seelinger at (407) 876-6699, ext. 233, or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.shepherdshope.org/volunteers.