A Noble Way for a Doctor to Spend Retirement

Physician's Money Digest, June 2007, Volume 14, Issue 6

At 42 square miles, Hilton Head Island, SouthCarolina, boasts more than 15 golf coursesthat draw retired physicians to its sandy shorefront.Perhaps less well known is that 7.3% of individualresidents are considered to be below the nationalpoverty line, according to the US Census Bureau.

A New Beginning for a Doctor

When Charles P. Duvall, MD, MACP, retiredfrom working as an internist and medical oncologistat a private practice in Washington, DC, he and hiswife decided to relocate to Hilton Head after 25years of vacationing in the area.

Besides the allure of leisure activities, Dr. Duvallcame to the island to work at the Volunteers inMedicine (VIM) free clinic, which opened its doors in1993. The goal of the clinic is to provide affordablehealth care utilizing a staff comprised entirely of retiredmedical professionals.

Retired physician volunteers of all ages come togetherhere to serve the community with patient-centeredhealth care, something that is often difficult whenfinancial concerns take precedence. Now, without theburden of making money to support himself whilemaintaining overhead, Dr. Duvall is capable of providinga valuable service to the island's residents while continuingto do what he loves most—practice medicine.

"I knew that I could keep doing what I liked to dowithout all the hassles of private practice, all the negativesthat were the things that sent me into retirement," Dr. Duvall said. "When I worked for a living, I didn'thave a very balanced life, and my family suffered.There was nothing left for me at the end of the day."

Now in his eighth year of retirement, Dr. Duvallis still as busy as ever; however, he fills his time withthings he wants to do, such as traveling with hiswife and also volunteering one day a week at Habitatfor Humanity.

The Difference Volunteerism Makes

Working on a volunteer basis not only improvedthe quality of life for Dr. Duvall and his family, butit also improved the quality of his patient care.

"Having as much time as I want to spend with apatient and not charging them any money at all is wonderful.Whenever you're charging money, there's alwaysthat nagging little concern that you're charging toomuch or it isn't worth it," Dr. Duvall said. "All of thosethings evaporate when you give [health care] away forfree, so I see a patient for all the right reasons."

Seeing a patient for all the right reasons allowsretired physician volunteers to handle the various casesthat unexpectedly walk through the clinic doors.

"You really never know what's out there andwhat can come in when a patient comes in. It couldbe something really simple or something really troublesome," Dr. Duvall said.

The VIM clinic makes volunteering easy for physicianslike Dr. Duvall, who still need licensure and insuranceto practice medicine in retirement. Malpracticeinsurance is covered entirely by the clinic, so that physiciansdo not have to pay costly insurance premiumsafter retirement, while a Samaritan License, whichmust be renewed annually, keeps physicians from havingto maintain their own state-based licenses.

Not practicing medicine was never an option for Dr.Duvall. "I had been a doctor all my life and used towork in hospitals as a 14-year-old. I didn't know anydifferent. It's who I am," Dr. Duvall said.

Working in a clinic gives Dr. Duvall the ability tobe a physician and enjoy the freedom of retirement.He encourages retiring physicians to choose an areawhere they can give some time taking care ofpatients for free because it is an enjoyable way tocontinue being a doctor.