April 5, 2010

Medical volunteerism focus of free conference

From doctors who provide free heart surgery to medical-dental missions to remote areas of the Amazon River by boat, the International Medical Volunteerism Conference will bring together doctors, health care professionals, students and lay people who volunteer their time and expertise to help save the lives of others.

The free, first annual conference comes to Emory April 16-18 with renowned speakers and exhibitors from around the world.

Billed as a “celebration of national and international medical and health volunteerism,” the event is co-hosted with Emory by Morehouse School of Medicine, Mercer University School of Medicine, Medical College of Georgia, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and the Medical University of South Carolina.

“Our goal is to inspire more people to volunteer, as well as offering innovative approaches for improving the overall health of the human race, particularly the underserved,” says Neil Shulman, associate professor at Emory School of Medicine and chairman of the Conference Organizing Committee.

“We want to create synergies between various volunteer organizations and the volunteers themselves by giving them a voice in collaboration efforts in the war against disease.”

The conference, which Shulman says is the first of its kind, will feature keynote addresses, exhibits, group sessions and panel discussions on a variety of topics:

• Learn from the inspiring stories of medical, dental and lay volunteers

• Network with health care professionals, students and lay people volunteering in all areas of health care and public health

• Network with nonprofit organizations offering a range of volunteer opportunities for medical professionals and laypersons

• Learn about activities such as screenings, free clinics, surgical interventions, public health education and health care provider training

• Learn about a range of volunteer opportunities in the Atlanta area, the United States and across the world.

With more than 100 exhibitors and 25 sessions held in several campus buildings, Shulman says the conference will flow “like a festival.”

The three-day program includes break-out sessions by geography, open forums inviting audience participation, photo exhibits and more. Participants are encouraged to exchange ideas on how to energize local and international volunteerism.

Speakers include James Sirleaf, son of the President of Liberia; George Lundberg, past editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American Medical Association; and Allen Dollar, an Emory cardiologist who adopted children from around the world in need of extended medical care in the U.S.; among others.

A Saturday night talent show featuring performances by conference presenters will add entertainment to the education and inspiration of this conference, says Shulman, himself a comedian and author, known for writing the book behind the 1991 movie “Doc Hollywood.”

“No medical background is needed to enjoy the conference,” Shulman notes. Several sessions, such as “Volunteering in Your Own Community,” offer opportunities and ideas for how everyone can get involved.

Students have played a key role in organizing the conference, notes Shulman, from a fundraising “Performance Showcase” of student talent on March 28 to building the robust conference Web site that also serves as an online community for medical volunteers.

A collaborative book to commemorate the inspiring stories shared at the conference will be available online and by print-on-demand. The organizers encourage participants to capture the conference in photos, videos and articles and share its message widely.

For more information, conference schedule, and to register for this free event, go to

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