Volunteers lend more than just helping hands

Volunteers are the lifeblood of what we do at Venice Family Clinic. From the college student who reads to our pediatric patients in our waiting rooms to the nephrologist who provides life-saving treatment to our diabetes patients, the Clinic would not be able to serve nearly 28,000 patients without their help.

That’s why we wanted to mark National Volunteer Month, which every April recognizes the significant contributions of volunteers and the importance of volunteerism to our communities. We’re highlighting three of our 1,400 volunteers who support us in providing comprehensive health care to anyone who needs it, whether they have health insurance or not.

Adam Leibovitch

From yoga instructor to clinic assistant, Adam Leibovitch has made a variety of contributions through his nearly 2,300 hours of service to the Clinic.

He started out as a volunteer yoga instructor in 2013, teaching classes to patients and community members. That same year, he began a post-baccalaureate pre-med program at USC.

“Wanting to become a doctor seemed like a natural progression to me,” Adam said. “I was helping people with their physical health through yoga, but I wanted to go toward research and medicine – not just telling people to eat healthy. I wanted to expand my role at the Clinic and get a better understanding of all that goes in to patient care from the provider side.”

In 2015, Adam became a referral coordinator for SUMMIT, our substance use treatment program. The following year, he entered our clinic assistant program, learning many of the same responsibilities as medical assistants, including how to take patient vitals, blood sugar and hemoglobin finger pokes, and room checks.

Today Adam is lead clinic assistant for Dr. Samuel Braitman, helping to write referrals and assisting with electronic medical record management. Adam also trains other clinic assistant volunteers on everything from how to take vitals to how to provide good customer service.

“As a clinic assistant, you see the same patients often. I like getting to know the patients as people and not just asking about their ailment that day,” he said.

Adam also has some advice for Clinic volunteers: be proactive.

“There’s a lot to do with a lot of opportunities, but everyone is really busy, so make sure you ask questions,” he said. “You’ll learn a lot of stuff that you wouldn’t learn elsewhere. At other places, you’re just folding bedsheets. At Venice Family Clinic, you’re basically working as a medical assistant when it’s busy.”

Adam plans to go to medical school and would like to work with low-income patients.

Kit Spikings

For nearly four years, Kit Spikings has selflessly given her time to the Clinic as a pediatric literacy volunteer. Not only does she read to our youngest patients while their families wait for their appointments, but she routinely goes above and beyond, collecting donations of toys, books, and crafting supplies; decorating the children’s playroom for holidays; and even bringing in cookies for our staff on a weekly basis.

At 73 years old and after working for UCLA for 45 years, one might think Kit would like to take it easy. Instead, she has dedicated her retirement to volunteerism, spending seven days a week giving her time to various organizations in Los Angeles, including UCLA Hospital and Venice Family Clinic.

“The people I meet at Venice Family Clinic are the kindest, most beautiful human beings in the world. It’s like a family,” she said. “I have my regulars, they know me. The beauty is when the kids come back months later and they remember me and come running to me. I can’t do enough for them.”

Kit has also taken the UCLA students who volunteer at the Clinic under her wing. She has even written letters of recommendation for some, and several are now in medical school.

“Volunteers are so important here,” she said. “I always say I wish I were a nurse or a doctor, and they always say, you’re more important because we can’t do what you do, we can’t take the time to sit with people. My passion is helping others. If I can’t do that, there’s some piece missing.”

Bari Scott

Even though she has been a volunteer at the Clinic for just over a year, Bari Scott has proved herself to be an invaluable member of the team.

She started out as a health care navigator, helping patients register with our online patient portal so they can access their own medical records and understand the resources available to them to take better charge of their health.

Then last fall, she learned about Venice Family Clinic’s Homeless Health Care program and reached out to director Dr. Coley King to see how she could help.

“I’m in the process of applying to medical school, and some schools I’m looking at have street medicine teams,” said Bari, who works at an urgent care facility when she’s not volunteering. “I’m really interested in serving communities that don’t have great access to medical care and how street medicine eliminates barriers to care.”

So Bari and Dr. King decided she would first train as a clinic assistant to learn how to triage patients, then she would join the street medicine team. Bari now works exclusively in Homeless Health Care, and in addition to street outreach assists in program administration, scheduling referrals and calling female patients over 40 to see if they’re interested in getting a mobile mammogram.

Bari has learned all kinds of new skills, including how to conduct a mental health assessment by testing a patient’s memory and cognitive abilities. She used this skill in helping Dr. King collect patient stories to be included in a set of street outreach guidelines he is developing as a resource for other street medicine practitioners.

“What I like about the Clinic is I get to work with patients and providers, as well as administrators. I get to see different aspects of health care delivery, broaden my understanding of the health care system in general, and gained a lot of useful experience,” Bari said. “I thought the nature of homeless health care work would be more difficult, and it isn’t easy, but I’m excited about it and want to pursue it further.”