Volunteer Spotlight

Inspired by our Volunteers

BVMI would not exist without our volunteers! So every April, we throw a big party to celebrate all of the special people who provide such excellent care to our patients. Bergen Volunteer Medical Initiative (BVMI) relies on volunteer doctors and nurses to provide free primary care to our hard-working neighbors in Bergen County who don't have insurance.

Englewood Hospital and Medical Center’s Ferolie Gallery provided the backdrop for this year’s event, attended by more than 65 volunteers and staff. J&J State Street Pharmacy, a long-time partner of BVMI, sponsored the event. Upon entering, guests were greeted with the soothing sounds of harp music provided by volunteer Lynne Van Engel. Our volunteers were able to sample the famous Hackensack Lager, brewed by The Alementary.

In 2014, BVMI started a tradition of awarding pins to individuals who have volunteered their time for five years. This year, pins were awarded to Victoria Eftychiou, MSN, APN; Barry Galton, MD; Jacques Gulekjian, MD; Maryann Hew, RN, BSN; Herbert Laden; and Deborah Oppenheimer. The six new inductees brings the number of people who have volunteered with BVMI for five years or more to 41!

“BVMI is an amazingly special place,” said Amanda Missey, BVMI CEO. “Our volunteers are such an incredible group of people and I feel exceedingly fortunate to come to work every day. I am inspired by how much you care about our patients – thank you for all that you do!”

United by Their Passion for Healthcare

Bergen Volunteer Medical Initiative (BVMI) relies on the support of volunteers to help provide free healthcare to hard-working, uninsured Bergen County, NJ residents. When Dr. Henry Lau first retired, he was restless. His family was growing increasingly worried because it was clear he was so unhappy. It was becoming apparent Henry needed not just a hobby to fill his time, but to find something he was passionate about.

Serendipitously, his colleague and former co-worker, Dr. Charlotte Sokol, called him one day to tell him about BVMI. Intrigued, he decided to schedule a meeting but wanted to bring his wife, Birdie along, because she “always asks the right questions.”

Not only did Henry fall in love with BVMI but so did Birdie. And, it just so happened that BVMI needed someone to scan medical records. Birdie, a self-described “gopher” jumped at the opportunity and BVMI walked away from that meeting with not just one but TWO volunteers!

“We both believe in the power of studying the whole body. Specialists only look at one problem and can sometimes forget that everything is interconnected,” says Henry.

Birdie believes that Henry himself a perfect example of how interconnected the body is. Since he started volunteering at BVMI, Birdie believes that because he is filling his time with purpose, Henry’s overall health has improved. Now, he no longer seems down or disinterested and instead is back to the smiling Henry she saw everyday when he was working.

“We tell our kids everyday that they need to find their calling and work toward their passion. Without a direction in life, you burn out,” says Birdie. “When we first started volunteering at BVMI, Henry was walking around with a cane – now there is no longer a cane, and Henry practically is skipping around the healthcare center! BVMI has given us both a direction again…He gets to be a practicing physician again and I get to help run a healthcare center office again – it’s like we never even retired!”

Inspired by Volunteering at BVMI

All his life, Aret Varvar, RN, knew he wanted to help people. While pursuing a degree in law enforcement, he saw a flyer seeking EMT volunteers and decided to sign up, thinking it would tie in nicely with his studies.

Aret was hooked right away. One of his mentors, a seasoned EMT, suggested that he explore healthcare as a career. He did, and now, he can’t imagine doing anything else. “Thankfully, I stumbled across my passion.” He enjoys the challenge of identifying the one factor – however small – that is affecting a patient’s overall health. Aret practices the Culture of Caring by treating all patients with respect and dignity. Aret volunteers at the Bergen Volunteer Medical Initiative (BVMI) - a healthcare center that provides free healthcare to hard-working Bergen County, NJ residents who don't have insurance.

In between pre-med classes and volunteering at BVMI, Aret works at Englewood Hospital’s outpatient dialysis center. “My grandfather was on dialysis until the day he died and my brother is currently living with kidney disease. In many ways, this position is connected to me personally.”

Watching his brother struggle with kidney disease, Aret can’t imagine being without health insurance. “If one of my loved ones was uninsured, I would send them straight to BVMI. I see how the practitioners take each and every patient complaint seriously. The care is astounding.”

One of the many reasons Aret loves volunteering at BVMI is because it affords him the opportunity to practice in a primary care setting. “I love the learning experience that comes with being at BVMI. I like it all – I am interested in so many areas of medicine and being at BVMI allows me to expand upon my many passions.”

In June, Aret will take the MCAT and will start submitting applications for medical school. “Being at BVMI has shown me how I can broaden my scope of practice and has helped me realize that becoming a doctor will expand my areas of understanding even further. My ultimate goal is to say that I have volunteered at BVMI as both a nurse AND a doctor.”

Dr. Josef Machac Leads Obesity Team

When Dr. Josef Machac was in medical school, he was fascinated by every specialty there was. He ultimately focused on cardiology, but has believed throughout his career in the power of taking an interdisciplinary approach to medicine. He’s consulted on thyroid cancer studies, assisted in various dementia studies and examined issues relating to obesity.

Dr. Machac heard about BVMI when it opened in November, 2009. He was still working, but helped raise money by making presentations at Central Unitarian Church in Paramus. As he neared retirement, he wanted to become more involved with BVMI and began to explore the possibility of volunteering at the healthcare center. Dr. Machac with Patient

He’s been with BVMI for three years now, and is now helping to launch Paso a Paso (Step by Step), BVMI’s new obesity prevention program. More than 50% of BVMI’s patients are overweight or obese, and many patients could use a focused program to help them lose weight. It is Dr. Machac’s hope that the multi-faceted approach of Paso a Paso will help patients increase physical fitness, change their eating habits and reduce overall stress.

Dr. Machac is excited about Paso a Paso because it allows him to collaborate with his peers here at BVMI. “The team at BVMI is special and has the interdisciplinary focus I love. A dermatologist can talk with me and five other doctors about a rash and we all are able to collaborate. It enables me to satiate my many curiosities. BVMI’s obesity program will allow physicians, mental health professionals, dietitians and others to collaborate on a crucial social problem.”

Dr. Machac is also thrilled that he can practice general medicine while volunteering at BVMI. “Providing primary and preventive care means I can delve into a variety of health concerns, rather than just concentrating on one part of the body. Although I still practice cardiology, I am able to focus on general primary care with many of my patients. Being at BVMI means I get to explore medicine in ways I couldn’t when I was still working full time.”

At BVMI, Dr. Machac is practicing medicine as he always hoped he would, and in the process, is helping BVMI’s patients stay healthy.

Without our Partners, We Would Have to Close Our Doors

Bergen Volunteer Medical Initiative changes lives and save lives, and we couldn’t do it without help from our partners in the community. On September 21, we had the opportunity to recognize six of them at BVMI’s 7th Anniversary Gala.

Quest Diagnostics was presented with the Corporate Leadership Award, and the radiology departments at all five Bergen County hospitals were presented with the Community Leadership Award. Since 2009, Quest Diagnostics has provided free lab work for all BVMI patients. Geoff Monk, VP for the East Region at Quest, believes that the relationship between BVMI and Quest is “like two strands of DNA; it couldn’t be tighter. Quest’s mission is to empower better health through diagnostic insights. Our number one goal is to create a healthier world. Together, we’ll make this local community a healthier community.”

The Community Leadership Award was presented to Bergen Regional Medical Center’s Department of Radiology, Englewood Hospital and Medical Center’s Department of Radiology, Hackensack University Medical Center’s Department of Radiology, Holy Name Medical Center’s Department of Radiology and The Valley Hospital Diagnostic Imaging Center and Radiology Associates of Ridgewood. Dr. Arthur De Simone, BVMI’s medical director, noted that in the past three years, the hospitals provided nearly 3,000 diagnostic tests to BVMI patients. “For this, we are very grateful to them.” The radiology departments have conducted a wide range of tests for hundreds of BVMI patients such as mammograms, CAT scans, MRIs, and X-rays.

A special thanks to our honorees!

With BVMI, You Don’t Have to Stand Alone

For Dr. Kay Fagan, volunteering as part of BVMI’s Women’s Health Initiative is a perfect match because she believes that “women are unique.” After working in a women’s prison, Dr. Fagan promised herself that she would continue serving in a clinical setting that values women.

When she received an email from a colleague about BVMI back in 2009, Dr. Fagan immediately saw an opportunity to “to practice in an underserved area with women who are so vulnerable” and scheduled an appointment to come by.

Volunteer Picture Immediately, Dr. Fagan saw that “there are a lot of things that are special about BVMI.” Since that day, Dr. Fagan has dedicated countless hours to serving our patients. When she compares her experiences to other clinical settings she has been in, Dr. Fagan has come to admire the continuity of care BVMI provides, seeing some of the same patients for seven years!As a practitioner, Dr. Fagan believes in the power of continuity of care because with continuity comes stronger outcomes.

Perhaps most important to Dr. Fagan is BVMI’s practice of allowing patients to tell their story. This enables Dr. Fagan and other BVMI volunteers to look at the whole patient, not just what ailments might be bothering them. However, Dr. Fagan humbly believes that BVMI has given her more than what she has given BVMI. She believes that there are few environments that allow practitioners to constantly learn as well as meet professional goals.

In addition to having such strong relationships with patients, Dr. Fagan has developed bonds with other BVMI staff and volunteers. Having a strong interdisciplinary team of professionals collaborating on patient needs is unique, and important in ensuring high quality long term care. The team Dr. Fagan works with at BVMI is one of the many reasons Dr. Fagan loves BVMI. “We work together and support each other in order to best serve the patients. We collaborate. The patients keep coming back so that’s always a good sign. But most of all, our team is defined by knowing that you don’t have to stand alone.”

BVMI is Grateful for our “Snowbirds”

Dr. Corey

Dr. Timothy Corey is what we affectionately call a “snowbird” here at BVMI. For several months of the year, he volunteers at a free clinic in Englewood, FL.

When he returns to New Jersey for the summer months, he donates his time to BVMI. Dr. Corey, a dermatologist, has been volunteering with BVMI for two summers now.

“This is a good opportunity to help people who probably would not have access to a dermatologist,” says Dr. Corey.  “It’s gratifying to see how appreciative everyone is, from fellow volunteers and staff, to patients.”

Thank you, Dr. Corey, for serving the uninsured here in Bergen County and down in Florida, too!

BVMI Welcomes New Board Members

Bergen Volunteer Medical Initiative is happy to introduce four new trustees to the BVMI board. lazare_stankovic_mckoy_cropped We are pleased to welcome Shannon Lazare, Mark McKoy, Dr. Ana K. Stankovic and Dr. David Sutter. Each will serve a three-year term. “This is a pivotal year for BVMI,” said Amanda Missey, the organization’s President/CEO. “Several founding board members, to whom we owe our gratitude, have reached their term limits. They have accomplished so much for our patients. We’ll need the same level of commitment, knowledge and experience from our new board members, and we’ve chosen well.”

Shannon K. Lazare, MBA, is the Vice President/Senior Relationship Manager for M&T Bank in Saddle Brook. Ms. Lazare’s community involvement activities include her service as President of the Mahwah Regional Chamber of Commerce and as a member of the Bergen County Workforce Development Board.

Mark McKoy, MBA, CRMA, is the Senior Director of Corporate Revenue Management and New Jersey Customer Operations for SUEZ in North America (formerly United Water). He plays a pivotal role in the company’s technological strategies and also is an important figure in the realm of customer operations. Mr. McKoy holds an MBA in Business Management from Monroe College in New York, and a Certification in Risk Management Assurance (CRMA).

Ana K. (Miljkovic) Stankovic, MD, PhD, MSPH, is the World Wide Vice President, Medical Affairs, Diagnostics-Preanalytical Systems at BD. She has more than 25 years of research and development experience in academic, government, and device industry settings. She has developed and implemented clinical programs and health economic tools worldwide. Previously, Dr. Stankovic has worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Quest Diagnostics, Inc., Immucor, Inc. and the American Red Cross. She is a member of the Academy of Clinical Laboratory Physicians and Scientists, the American Association of Blood Banks, the American Society of Clinical Pathologists, and the College of American Pathologists.

David B. Sutter, MD, PA, maintained a 37-year private practice in Internal Medicine, in both Ridgewood and Midland Park, until 2013. During that time, he was also an Attending Physician at The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, and currently is a member of their Emeritus staff. He has served on numerous committees at the hospital. Dr. Sutter received his medical degree from Georgetown University Medical School.

We Love Our Nurses!

BVMI Nurses

We’ve all had a “Florence Nightingale” moment at some point in our lives – that time we recall a caring, competent nurse making things a little easier for us or a loved one. Hopefully, we remembered to say thank you. National Nurses Week 2016 (May 6-12) gives everyone another chance to say thanks.

“We are immensely proud of the 33 nurses and nurse practitioners who love their profession – and their patients – enough to donate their time and talent,” said Amanda Missey, BVMI’s President & CEO. One prime example is Terry Adelgais, RN, who has been a BVMI volunteer for almost 7 years. She is a mainstay on Tuesday mornings, and her many years of nursing experience translate to excellent patient care. Terry also introduces potential nurse volunteers to BVMI’s practice. She reviews credentials, provides orientation, and actively mentors the nurses as they begin serving at BVMI.

“We need volunteers to keep our Center functioning, and Terry is a vital team member,” says Michelle Kaye, MSN, RN, Nurse Manager. “I depend on her guidance to our new nurses and her experience as a nurse leader.” “BVMI salutes nurses everywhere during National Nurses Week,” said Missey. “We thank them for all they do, and hope others will, too.”

It’s Never Too Late!

Volunteer Spotlight Heidi Ahlborn, MD, became a BVMI primary care provider in 2015, but she’s no stranger to the medical field – or to us. A trained physician, Heidi had focused for 25 years on building a strong family, with five children. She placed her medical license on “inactive” status during that time.

When she learned about BVMI, her youngest child had just graduated college. Heidi wanted to volunteer, and agreed to serve as a referral coordinator, matching patients who needed specialized care with physicians in practice elsewhere – at no charge to the patient.

She also formed a group known as Friends of BVMI, and serves on BVMI’s Board of Trustees. “That was enough at first, but then I felt a real emotional pull to see patients.  I knew I needed to reactivate my license,” said Heidi.

For more than two years, she tackled rigorous coursework and met her goal.  She’s found her ultimate niche at BVMI, seeing patients every week, and embraces the “Culture of Caring” approach that is the core value of BVMI.

Healthy & Happy!

A healthy diet is important to a person’s overall health.  No one believes this more than Marsha Eisen, who worked as a Registered Dietitian for 36 years at Hackensack University Medical Center.

During her long and wonderful career, she worked with patients in many different areas of the hospital.  After her retirement in 2015, she wanted find a volunteer opportunity that would allow her to utilize her skills as a dietitian and help the local community. Marsha Eisen

Marsha heard about BVMI and promptly applied.  She sailed through BVMI’s thorough volunteer vetting process, and soon joined the team.  She’s thrilled to be here, and is pleased that her patients are making good progress with her help. Marsha’s other passion is playing flute and piccolo in the North Jersey Symphony Orchestra.

She’s been playing with the symphony for 42 years (the longest-standing member!) and invites our readers to attend the Symphony’s next performance on Sunday, March 13th at 3:00pm, at Thomas Jefferson Middle School, 35-01 Morlot Avenue, Fair Lawn, NJ.

It takes two!

Many BVMI volunteers form solid professional partnerships – and friendships – with their fellow volunteers.  Working in such a caring environment – and for patients who so appreciate the care – ensures that BVMI’s volunteers look forward to their shifts! Zilberstein and Van DuzerDr. Inga Zilberstein and Carla Van Duzer, RN, work together with the ease of two professionals who have been volunteering one day a week at BVMI for more than five years.

This doctor-nurse combination provides an array of exams for our well-woman health initiative. They say the secret to their success is that they both believe in creating an environment where the patients feel welcome, valued and understood.

Dr. Jacques Gulekjian and Cathy McPolin, RN, MSN, hGulekjian and McPolinave a “silent understanding” that makes them a great team at BVMI.  Cathy can anticipate what the doctor needs, which allows them to provide high quality primary care.

Both longtime volunteers say they look forward to the days they work together at the BVMI Healthcare Center.

Congratulations Michelle!

Michelle Kay

Michelle Kaye, MSN, RN

Michelle Kaye, MSN, RN, started volunteering at BVMI five years ago, bringing 18 years of experience as a nurse manager with her. Michelle’s one-day-a-week volunteer stint soon turned into a paid position when the nurse manager decided to “officially” retire.

From day one, Michelle has embraced the Culture of Caring that permeates BVMI. While we at BVMI appreciate Michelle every day, she was publicly recognized in November as a finalist for NJ March of Dimes Nurse of the Year, which recognizes professionals who demonstrate exceptional patient care, compassion, and service. Congratulations, Michelle!

Six Years and Counting…

Alice Wright, MSN, RN

Alice Wright

Alice Wright, MSN, RN Speak to Alice Wright, RN, and she’ll explain that she started volunteering at BVMI because of its mission then stayed because of the exemplary care that the nurses and physicians provided. “I’m impressed with the time that the doctors and nurses spend with the patients,” Alice said. “Patients are treated with such respect and warmth. I find it so satisfying to be part of their care.” Nursing is a second career for Alice. When her husband died unexpectedly, she needed to provide for her family so she used the insurance settlement to pursue a nursing degree. Now, when she’s not at BVMI on Thursday afternoons, she’s nearby in Glen Rock working as a school nurse. How lucky for both Glen Rock and BVMI!

“I Started with a Vision”

Cynthia Chasen

Cynthia Chazen

Cynthia Chazen Hands down, the auction at this year’s gala was the best one ever, not only because of the innovative auction items, but also because it raised $19,850.  And BVMI has volunteer Cynthia Chazen to thank. 

“I started with a vision,” said Cynthia. Cynthia met BVMI’s executive director Amanda Missey through Bergen LEADS, a year-long civic leadership experience for adults in Bergen County. She has a professional sales background and is a licensed auctioneer. 

Now, with her six years of volunteer experience – Pascack Valley Meals on Wheels and The Stigma Free Zone are favorites – her goal is to work full time as a fundraiser for a local non-profit. Cynthia had specific auction packages in mind prior to reaching out to the community. 

“People are busy; they don’t have a lot of time,” explained Cynthia.  “Before I called a donor, I knew what I wanted to ask them for.”  Thankfully, half the people she ccontacted returned her call – and said yes to her request.  “Once they heard about BVMI and what it does, donors were very willing to help,” she added.  Cynthia’s vision created the most successful auction BVMI has had.  Thank you, Cynthia!

BVMI’s Dream Team

Cynthia Goldman and Marilyn Schotz

Goldman Schotz lg

Cynthia Goldman and Marilyn Schotz

Each year, guests arrive at BVMI’s Anniversary Gala with high expectations. This year will be no exception.  And when they walk into The Shops at Riverside on Sunday, the 27th of September, they’ll be dazzled by how the mall has been transformed into a unique and exciting venue for BVMI annual fundraising event.

Cynthia Goldman and Marilyn Schotz, gala co-chairs, are to thank.  BVMI’s “dream team” has led the event for five of the last six years. With a Masters in music from NYU, Cynthia used her musical background first for therapy purposes, eventually leading to 25 years directing special events with a strong musical emphasis.

Implementing Cynthia’s creativity is Marilyn’s business sense – she owned a successful boutique – making this partnership doubly effective. So, when you’re at the Gala, take a minute to appreciate all the work that went into the event, and admire the flowers, the music and the meticulous attention to detail.  Two pros made it happen.

¡Hablamos Español!

Christian Monsalve, Anjelica Veca & Judith Venegas

Christian Monsalve, Anjelica Veca and Judith Venegas

BVMI is fortunate to have three volunteer interpreters: Christian Monsalve, Anjelica Veca and Judith Venegas. Their job is twofold – to help the doctors, nurses, and other clinical volunteers and staff to fully understand the patient’s symptoms and to help the patient understand what follow up is needed and how to take any medications that are prescribed.

Christian is applying to medical schools and said, “The struggles of these patients are greater than the average person. I will share this experience with future classmates to remind them that this is why we entered the medical field: to provide medical care to those in need.”

What surprised Anjelica was, “So many patients are relieved to see me. They smile and their whole body relaxes. They are much more comfortable knowing that they will be understood and that they will also understand what the doctor is telling them.” Judith noted, “When I’m helping a patient, I know that I am helping their family, too. I keep them motivated to be healthier.”

Christian hopes to become a doctor, Anjelica wants to become a professional interpreter and Judith volunteers to give back. Even with their diverse goals, BVMI provided a path to help achieve them.

Strengthening Skills through Volunteering

Tom Scheuren, RN

tom and em apple picking

Tom Scheuren, RN, with his wife

“Emergency room nursing is all about stabilizing and treating the patient’s urgent healthcare needs in the short term, whereas the work at BVMI is focused on the patient’s long term, primary healthcare needs,” explained Tom Scheuren, an RN with Chilton Hospital and valued BVMI volunteer.

“By volunteering at BVMI, I get access to a very different style of nursing and healthcare. It helps make me be a well-rounded nurse.” Nursing is actually a career change for Tom. He has an undergraduate degree in English and Secondary Education and a masters degree in Counseling Psychology, and worked as a student affairs professional. However, his career path was taking him away from working with students.

“Changing careers was one of the best professional decisions I have ever made. My work day is devoted to interpersonal and meaningful work – work that possesses an immediacy of impact that is visible day in and day out.”

Tom added, “Working with the patients of BVMI is always a pleasure. Plus, the volunteer staff comes from such a variety of professional backgrounds, they’re always a source of new information and insight.”

A Labor of Love

Harold Bruck, MD

Hal Bruck

Harold Bruck, MD

More than 100,000 breast cancer patients were fortunate to have Dr. Harold Bruck as their surgeon. Each of them knew he or she was being treated by a highly skilled surgeon who also cared very deeply about his patients.

“Listening is one of the most important things you can do,” said Dr. Bruck. “Thankfully, at BVMI I can continue to take my time with patients and give them the care they deserve.” Dr. Bruck, a graduate of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, currently has a teaching appointment at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center on the Breast Surgical Service.

He was in practice in Ridgewood and on staff at The Valley Hospital. Dr. Bruck volunteers because he has spent his life taking care of people and wants to continue using his experience and knowledge. Plus, he delights in working with “the many bright, devoted people at BVMI.”

When asked if he would choose medicine all over again, Dr. Bruck enthusiastically replied, “Oh my gosh, yes! It’s a labor of love.”

Celebrating our Five-year Volunteers!5 year volunteers

More than 70 volunteers, staff and friends of Bergen Volunteer Medical Initiative recently gathered at a Volunteer Reception hosted by TD Bank in Wyckoff.  The highlight of the evening was a special recognition for volunteers who had given five years of service.

“The fact that we have 26 volunteers who have been with BVMI since we opened our doors in 2009 shows just how dedicated and special our volunteers really are,” said Amanda Missey, executive director.

“It speaks to their passion for our mission.” BVMI’s Volunteer Reception is held annually in conjunction with National Volunteer Week, which honors and encourages people to be at the center of social change and actively demonstrate their collective power to make a difference.

From the Beginning

Howard Lipton, DO


Howard Lipton, DO

Even before the doors opened at BVMI, Dr. Howard Lipton’s impact was being felt. After retiring in 2006 and traveling to the destinations he always promised he would see, Dr. Lipton “wanted to do something more.” He heard about BVMI through Dr. Paul Mendelowitz, the CMO at Holy Name Medical Center, and got involved in the early stages.

Dr. Lipton had designed his own offices so he was tapped to help design the layout of the Center’s offices and exam rooms. During this time, Dr. Lipton got to know Dr. Art De Simone, BVMI’s medical director, and his support expanded into volunteering once a week as well as becoming the assistant medical director. “I am thankful for BVMI,” said Dr. Lipton. “It got me back into medicine.”

His words of advice to other doctors: “Working here allows me to spend more time with patients. I don’t worry about normal office responsibilities like billing and insurance forms. Plus, everyone strives to provide the highest level of patient care. “ Thank you, Dr. Lipton, for your service”.

The Importance of Communication

hommadov 4

Kakageldi Hommadov, MD

Kakageldi Hommadov, MD Volunteerism has been a part of Dr. Hommadov’s life since high school, when he was an assistant providing medical care to underserved, rural areas in Turkmenistan. High school was also where he learned English and Turkish, in addition to his native Turkmen.

At 18, he left family and friends to pursue six years of medical school in Turkey before obtaining his MD in Anesthesiology and Intensive Care. Dr. Hammadov currently works in research at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center and is applying for residency in a local hospital. A BVMI volunteer since July 2014, Dr. Hammadov feels that a doctor should “Listen to the patient. Address their problems. Follow up with their concerns. Communication is so important.”

At BVMI, he assists doctors in charting patient medical records and although he does not see patients independently, he is involved with discussions regarding the complexities of patient care. “It gives me immense satisfaction to work at BVMI,” added Dr. Hammadov. “Everyone here wants to help the patient.”

Currently Dr. Hommadov is writing a paper on sickle cell patients who choose not to accept blood transfusions as part of their treatment. He loves hiking, camping, skiing and soccer. The photo above was taken at Arcadia National Park in Maine.


Susan Geltman, MSW

A Focus on Mental Health

Susan Geltman, MSW “During a medical visit, the practitioner sometimes notices that the patient is anxious or depressed or has a problem that is getting in the way of their happiness,” explained Susan Geltman, MSW, a volunteer social worker at BVMI.

“That’s when the person is referred to me.” Susan’s approach is a personal one. She’ll help patients develop strategies that allow them to take action to make things better. “It may be as simple as taking a walk, saying a prayer or reading a book on affirmations when things get too overwhelming,” she added. Susan recently retired from private practice and her counseling position at Ramapo College.

She volunteers every other week. What she noticed most about BVMI was the dedication of the staff and the quality of care. “Each patient receives the best possible treatment and is treated with respect.”


Dale F. Cook, Data Analyst

Making Access to Data Easier

Dale F. CookData Analyst After retiring from 17 years at Aetna, Inc. as the head of the $4 billion Small Business Accounts Division, Dale Cook was looking for a non-profit organization where her strong analytical skills would be of value. She was also a personal friend of Amanda Missey, BVMI’s Executive Director.

When they began talking about volunteering, Dale realized that her knowledge of the healthcare industry would be an asset as well. Fast forward six months and Dale has vastly improved BVMI’s patient database, making it easier and more efficient to pull data. “Before the data was extracted manually,” she said. “Now all sorts of reports and historical data can be accessed automatically and progress can be monitored on a monthly basis.”

This is extremely important when gathering data to support grant applications or to show the progress that BVMI patients have made. “It’s much more pro-active this way,” Dale observed. “Plus we have hard data; we don’t have to rely on anecdotal information.”

Curious to learn what Dale thinks about her experience at BVMI as it is the first time she has ever volunteered, she replied, “I feel very valued here. It is personally gratifying which is what I was looking for.”


Transitioning from Private Practice to Volunteer

Noel Friedland, MD “When I was first introduced to the BVMI concept of primary healthcare for the uninsured, I knew I would become a volunteer there as soon as I could free up some time,” explained Dr. Noel Friedland, a specialist in internal medicine for 40 years and now a three-year BVMI volunteer.

Volunteer Spotlight: Noel Friedland


With the healthcare landscape rapidly evolving, Dr. Friedland felt it was a good time to transition from private practice to volunteer service when The Valley Hospital approached him and his partner with an offer to be the first primary care practice that they would purchase.

The sale allowed him to gradually reduce his private practice hours and increase his volunteer work with BVMI. He also enjoyed the freedom of setting his own hours and not worrying about overhead. Dr. Freidland is well known for taking time to get to know his patients, giving them quality care, and treating them like family, a tradition that he continues today with his BVMI patients.

He is pleased that BVMI is guided by a “Culture of Caring” – a belief that the way a person is treated is as important as the medical care that is provided. Dr. Friedland added, “I still feel the excitement of helping people, I measure my life by what I can do for others.”