First published by BVMI.
BVMI volunteer Dr. Josef Machac received the 2023 Jack B. McConnell, MD, Award for Excellence in Volunteerism, one of the American Medical Association’s top honors. This annual award recognizes the work of senior physicians who provide treatment for patients who lack access to healthcare. It is named after Dr. Jack McConnell, founder of Volunteers in Medicine, a model of utilizing volunteer healthcare providers to provide free care to the uninsured. BVMI, a Volunteers in Medicine clinic, was founded by Dr. Samuel A. Cassell, who received this prestigious award in 2014.
Dr. Machac works tirelessly to help BVMI’s patients. He has been a volunteer provider for nearly 10 years, and donated more than 600 hours of his time during the pandemic, seeing patients and assisting with the vaccination effort in Bergen County.
We congratulate Dr. Machac for receiving this prestigious award, and thank him for his many years of service to BVMI patients. One of our patients recently said, “Dr. Machac is no ordinary doctor.” We agree, and are beyond grateful to have him on our team!
The transcript of Dr. Machac’s acceptance speech follows.
AMA Foundation Award acceptance remarks
Josef Machac, MD
Evening of June 10, 2023, at the Annual AMA Convention at the Hyatt Regency Ballroom, Chicago, Ill
I would like to thank the staff of BVMI, the Bergen Volunteer Medical Initiative, in Hackensack, NJ, for their nomination, and the AMA Foundation for having given me this award for my volunteering work at the BVMI clinic, providing free medical care to people of Bergen County who cannot afford to buy health insurance. I was asked: Why do you volunteer? I told them that I have benefitted from this work at least as much as those who have benefitted from my work.
The work at BVMI has given me an opportunity to maintain my skills in general medicine and cardiology and maintain my identity as a physician. It has given me an opportunity to develop my linguistic facility in the Spanish language through frequent practice which has allowed me to connect with my patients directly in their own idiom. During our recent Covid pandemic, when I, along with many others, were in despair over the effects of the epidemic on our world and the concurrent political crisis, the feeling of being needed and useful was a great help for my own mental health. Yes, this part-time volunteer work provides for me a sense of useful purpose, and at the same time, since I freely choose the days and times when I am available for this work, it leaves time to enjoy leisure and other activities as a retired senior citizen, without the feeling I had of being on a constant treadmill when working full-time.
My volunteering work has been motivated by a sense of need to mitigate the social injustice produced by our broken health care system that negatively affects the health of our vulnerable population: the poor, the immigrants, especially women, who are marginalized in our society; those who transport our food and the merchandise that we buy, those who stock and maintain our supermarkets, those who construct and repair our homes and perform landscaping, those who cook and serve in the restaurants we visit, and even those who take care of children and the elderly; and who are rewarded for their essential work by being denied access to medical care that is available to all inhabitants in every other developed nation. My volunteer work has been made possible by the infrastructure provided by BVMI, established by my predecessor, Dr. Cassell, who won this same award some years ago, whose accomplishments overshadow my own efforts.
I sincerely hope that within my lifetime I will see my work at BVMI become superfluous with the introduction of universal health care insurance coverage in our country. Then I can turn my volunteering efforts to other causes that need helping by all of us.
I thank the AMA Foundation for this honor.