Core Papers

Volunteerism in Dermatology
Volunteerism in Dermatology

Volunteerism in Dermatology

Todd E. Schlesinger

Published:  02 November 2010



Volunteerism in America dates back to the early settlers. Physicians participate in volunteer activities in high numbers and on many levels. This article provides an overview of the many ways that dermatologists give back to the specialty of dermatology, medicine as a whole, and their community.  Strategies and opportunities for leadership in organized medicine are reviewed.  From private practice to academic medicine and from the local level to the national level, various options for leadership through volunteerism are described and explored. For those interested in promoting the common good, this article may provide a starting point or be used as a reference while working to achieve their volunteerism and leadership goals.

History of Volunteerism


Volunteerism has a long and interesting history in the United States. American colonists volunteered their time by forming support systems to help each other as they struggled to survive relocation. Benjamin Franklin founded the first firehouse in 1736, a tradition that continues today in many small towns and cities that maintain a volunteer fire department. During the Revolutionary War, leaders volunteered their time to raise money for war efforts and showed their solidarity by organizing boycotts of an array of products originating in Great Britain. In the 1800s, the strengthening of religious groups inspired legions of young people to become involved in helping others through relief programs, outreach to the homeless and help to those victimized by uncontrollable circumstances. Groups well known now such as the YMCA (mid 1800s), the Red Cross (1881) and the United Way were formed during the 19th century as well. Mainstream volunteerism began in the 20th century with the advent of public groups such as the Rotary Club (1910), the Lions Club and the Kiwanis Club (by 1920). The concept of organized volunteerism continued with other organizations and Americans were very involved. During the Great Depression, when the unmet need was primarily food and shelter, soup kitchens had their start. Untold numbers of Americans were aided by the bread lines of the time. Through the remainder of the 20th century and up to today, volunteer opportunities exploded. Organizations such as the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), Habitat for Humanity and Montessori were formed on the basis of volunteerism to achieve their respective missions. Pro bono, Latin for being involved in or doing professional work (often legal), is a household term. President Obama has made volunteerism a priority with a program called Volunteer for Organizing for America (1), a campaign to match volunteers with community needs. In a time of economic uncertainty, volunteerism affords people the opportunity to devote time and energy to improving the welfare of those around them. The benefits to those helped and to those volunteering often cannot be measured objectively, but are fundamental to life as we know it.

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