Each month, Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic, a free clinic in Charleston, SC, shines a spotlight on one of our many exceptional volunteers. From medical staff to voluntary file clerks, BIFMC is able to provide a warm, caring and expert primary medical home to hundreds of uninsured patients. The residents and workers of our Lowcountry community are cared for and kept healthy due to the commitment of our volunteers.
This month, we celebrate Royal Pipaliya! Royal joined the BIFMC volunteer crew last summer in response to our newly created position, Patient Navigator – a patient support role at the clinic working with patients to determine eligibility and offer assistance in seeking resources. Royal comes from Hartsville, South Carolina. She received her B.S. degree in Biology from the College of Charleston.
What does a Patient Navigator do? The Patient Navigator role was created recently in order to assist patients understand and get through the eligibility requirements needed to receive treatment at BIFMC. Naturally, there is a lot of paperwork involved and obtaining the necessary proof of residency and income can be difficult for many of our patients due to their complicated life situations. It is also hoped that in the future the Patient Navigator can sit down with patients and serve as a helping hand in seeking out and accessing other community or government resources.
What about this position interests you? I applied to the position thinking it would be a fantastic learning opportunity while also being able to help individuals obtain medical care. I wanted to learn what resources there were in the community and how one may go about accessing them. With this knowledge, I hope to be able to make a difference in the lives of others throughout my career going forward.
How did you learn about BIFMC? Were you actively looking for volunteer opportunities at the time? I was actively searching for interesting volunteer opportunities and the advertisement for the patient navigator position just happened to appear on my Facebook page. I immediately sent an e-mail inquiring about the position and was surprised to receive such a quick response!
Do you have a background in healthcare? What is your current occupation? I’m currently an emergency room scribe which allows me to see a large variety of interesting cases. Outside of that, I also volunteer in a breast cancer research lab at MUSC. In the near future, I intend to apply to medical school.
What is it about BIFMC’s mission that appeals to you personally? I enjoy that BIFMC is run by a small group of core individuals dedicated to make a genuine difference in peoples lives. It’s truly refreshing to see how much focus can be placed on helping patients when the bureaucracy and red tape is removed. As a first-generation American, I’m particularly happy to see that the Clinic wants to help everybody regardless of social status or background.
How has volunteer work had an impact on your life? Volunteer work has always exposed me to different people and ideas that I would have not encountered otherwise. It consistently reminds me to think of others and how many issues need to be addressed in our community that people may not necessarily think of on a day-to-day basis.
What would you say is the biggest misconception about the uninsured? Why are they an important part of the community to dedicate your time to? Many of the uninsured still work hard as anybody else but often have to make tough financial decisions that may not allow them to buy insurance. The uninsured are a large part of working population and often serve our tourism and construction industries here in Charleston. It’s detrimental to the entire community if we are not able to keep the uninsured population healthy.
What advice would you give to those considering volunteering their time or donating a gift to the clinic? My advice to those interested in volunteering would be to be flexible. In a small clinic, everybody does a little of everything. If you can help out in any way possible you may learn things you may have not known before.
Thank you, Royal, for being a dedicated, open-minded and compassionate new addition to the team! We are lucky to have you as a part of our volunteer family!
Carrie Moores, BIFMC Marketing & Communications Specialist