For two months in late summer/early fall, I was a paid, part-time intern at a cardiovascular clinic in their research department, learning the ropes of clinical research. Since the beginning of October, I continued to volunteer a few hours each week. This spring, I debated whether to continue with volunteering at this office or if I should volunteer at a community free clinic. The latter was a suggestion made by one of the ER physicians. My personal thoughts are that, as I am employed at a not-for-profit hospital, I have seen many patients over the two-and-a-half years in the ER who do not have insurance, are homeless and/or are impoverished. I do have other long-term volunteer experience, that of which I will be in my 4th year doing coming up with the Boys & Girls Club, and have volunteered in several other ways over the years. So, my question is perhaps two-fold: first, would the clinical research experience gained this past fall be sufficient; and two, do I heed the advice of the ER physician whom suggested I volunteer this spring at a community free clinic?
I recommend heeding the ER doctor’s advice for several reasons. While you’ve encountered underserved patients before, getting experience in a different setting–a small, community-based free clinic–will be valuable because of what you might learn in that setting about how a smaller site operates and about the patients who use it. This experience will also be valuable in a medical school application for the above-stated reasons, especially if you eventually share what you learn in this clinic in the written materials in your application (or verbally, in an interview).
I was told that there is some sort of long waitlist to volunteer at the community free clinic, so it looks to be a no-go.