Endless Summer 2018
Take a Bow!
VIM Gala Will Honor Two Avalon Residents
By Linda Dougherty
Suzi Gallagher, Volunteer of the Year, hard at work.
Two Avalon residents will be honored for their service and dedication to the community at the Volunteers in Medicine (VIM) Free Clinics of South Jersey’s 12th Annual Gala, which will be held Sept. 13 at The Flanders Hotel in Ocean City.
The Avalon Lions Club is the presenting sponsor for this prestigious event, which celebrates those who have helped make the 17-year-old clinic a reality. The gala will begin at 6pm.
The two Avalon residents to be honored are Dr. John Middleton, VIM’s Physician of the Year, and Suzi Gallagher, the Volunteer of the Year.
“Dr. Middleton and Suzi are very special people,” says Jacqueline Meiluta, executive director of VIM. “They are shining examples of our motto, ‘Neighbors caring for neighbors.’”
Middleton is in private practice at ID Care in Old Bridge, N.J. A major in the U.S. Air Force, he is board certified in both internal medicine and infectious disease, and now offers a monthly infectious-disease clinic for VIM.
His previous awards and honors include Evergreen and Laureate awards from the American College of Physicians; elected Master of the American College of Physicians, and fellow of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. He is a clinical associate at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and an affiliate associate professor of clinical ethics at Caspersen School of Graduate Studies, Drew University.
“I heard about VIM as an organization many years ago,” Middleton says. “I always admired the people who thought of it, and believed it could work. I feel very strongly about volunteer work for physicians. We’ve been given tremendous opportunity.
“There’s always people who fall through the cracks in our community. I feel it’s an honor to participate in VIM. We as physicians are granted privileges and have an unwritten obligation to help others.”
Middleton says his father was a milkman, and to think that his son has become a physician “is a tremendous blessing.”
Dr. John Middleton, Volunteer of the Year, with his wife Jo Ann.
“This Physician of the Year award is for the patients and those who work at VIM every day,” he said. “It is a true honor to be nominated for this award, and I appreciate it tremendously. But it’s what we as physicians should be doing: taking care of people.”
Gallagher has been a VIM volunteer since before the clinic even opened. She was part of the team that rehabilitated VIM’s Cape May Court House Clinic in 2001, sewing curtains and painting and helping make a warm welcoming environment, after Cape Regional Medical Center bought the building for VIM.
For the past 17 years, Gallagher has volunteered every Thursday in the intake department, meeting with prospective and established patients to review their eligibility, a job that requires that she ask personal questions about finances. She also needs to be knowledgeable about Medicaid, Medicare, SSI, and Disability.
“The clinic started out on a modest scale, and 17 years later it’s open most days,” Gallagher says. “It’s a wonderful clinic that gives broad assistance to people that need help, and has expanded fabulously to include some specialties. The people at VIM are caring and knowledgeable; VIM’s motto of ‘Neighbors helping neighbors’ is so true.”
Also being honored at VIM’s gala, as its 2018 Community Partner, is Cape Urgent Care, located in Cape May. Since VIM’s beginning, Dr. William Weisberg’s Cape Urgent Care has generously provided financial support to clinic operations, provided free after-hours care to VIM patients, and arranged its schedule so several of its practitioners can volunteer at VIM.
VIM operates two free health-care facilities for residents of Cape May and Atlantic counties who have no or limited access to medical insurance. In Cape May County, the free clinic is located at 423 N. Route 9, Cape May Court House. The Atlantic County clinic is located at 3073 English Creek Ave., Egg Harbor Township.
VIM focuses on primary health care, emphasizing disease prevention, health promotion and patient education in easily accessible facilities, with the same dignity and confidentiality afforded in the private sector. The benefits to the community of a clinic such as VIM are important and broad-reaching: By helping people to stay healthy, they are more likely to stay employed and less likely to suffer from chronic illnesses. VIM opened its doors in 2002 to good people struggling to get by in Cape May County; in March 2017, it opened a second clinic to serve the needs of Atlantic County.
The Sept. 13 gala begins with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and features three tasting tables: Ludlam Island Brewery, Tito’s Vodka and Wine TBD. An elegant three-course dinner and program will follow. Tickets are $100; tables of 10 can be purchased for $950. Proceeds from the event will provide free health care at the VIM Cape May County Clinic.
“We are thrilled that the Avalon Lions are our title sponsor this year,” Meiluta says. “They do so much for the community, and we are always happy to partner with them.”
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