Current news and updates regarding the Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine Community.

Quit Your Way!

Quitting tobacco isn’t easy. Finding help should be!

LVIM and Tobacco Free Florida have teamed up to bring you
QUIT YOUR WAY smoking cessation classes.

For details and registration information,
please scan or click the QR code in the flyer above.

To jump straight to registration, please click here.

Welcome Alyssa!

Please join us in welcoming Alyssa Piccari to our team!


Alyssa will begin her journey as LVIM’s Executive Assistant on Monday, July 26th. 

In this role, she will be supporting LVIM’s executive team in many ways. 

Alyssa is a recent graduate of Florida Gulf Coast University and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in public health with a minor in marketing.  She currently volunteers with EMERGE Plant City, an organization that works to provide young professionals with business networking connections that inspire, enrich and develop individuals both personally and professionally. As a member of the Kappa Delta sorority, she has extensive volunteer experience with Girl Scouts and Prevent Child Abuse America. Most recently, she worked as a mortgage associate with Equity Resources, Inc.  When asked what her proudest professional moment has been, she relayed an experience that allowed her to help an elderly woman find a way to buy her first home, making her client’s lifelong dream come true.  Alyssa’s heart for people and for helping will fit right in at LVIM.

Where is she now….

In January Laura started PA school at South University in Tampa. (A little birdy told us that she is making straight A’s, of course!) She spends most of her time studying, but when she’s not, she likes to take walks in the park and when she finds some inspiration, she likes to do embroidery.
We are super proud of Laura and continue to wish her the best in all of her endeavors.

A Letter From Our CEO

Above the front door of my sister’s house hangs a sign that reads, “Gratitude is our dialect.”

This turn of phrase by which my sister’s family lives has become a mantra for me as well over the years.

In fact, through the challenges of last year and into this year, it has been my saving grace.  There is no denying that we have been and continue to be surrounded by heartbreak every day.  There are injustices to address, improve, and fix.  Our world is full of people who are hurting.  Sickness is everywhere.  Gratitude can be difficult to come by.

Personally, as I have applied this mantra to my own life, it has became obvious that sitting in the negative space of sadness and hopelessness has a paralyzing effect on me. To move through this space, I recognize the privilege I have to prioritize things that bring me joy.  I set about learning and questioning, reading and getting to know people. And, I make it a practice to reflect on that for which I am grateful every day.  Somedays I am certainly better at this than others; but, no matter what, I always land in gratitude.

It is always at this moment of gratitude that I find myself propelled to continue working to make a difference, to move through the grief and sadness surrounding me and work harder for those who can’t.

This is one of the many reasons I love LVIM so much.  By providing healthcare to those who have gone without, we are removing stressors from the lives of hardworking people.  We help people get well and stay well so they can live their best lives for those they love and be part of the community around them.  We make room for gratitude.

If we can use our gratitude to launch us forward, to give a hand up to someone who needs it, we can give the gift of gratitude – by way of good health – to many others.

As we reflect on the last year and plan for the second half of 2021, I am pleased to say that gratitude has been our dialect at LVIM.

In this month’s e-blast, I am excited to share four of the many things happening at LVIM for which I am grateful:  Vaccinations, Volunteers, Vacations, and Vision.

Thank you for joining us on the LVIM journey,


Alice V. Koehler, MBA

President & CEO



In January, thanks to Lakeland Regional Health, LVIM’s patient facing volunteers and staff were able to receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. This effort resulted in 90 fully vaccinated volunteers and staff which in turn allowed LVIM to begin the path to normal.  We have expanded our open-to-the-public operating hours.  Many of our volunteers have returned.  Many clients’ whose annual health screenings were delayed due to government mandates have now received the screenings they need.  Additionally, we hosted our own vaccination clinic at LVIM and were able to get nearly 70 of our own patients fully vaccinated by the end of June.  We were even able to host a Publix Super Markets pharmacist at the June 8th Mobile Food Pantry and offer vaccinations to the greater community.




In the pre-COVID era, LVIM served our patients and fulfilled our mission with the dedication of roughly 300 volunteers.  Last April, due to COVID-19, we were working our magic with only 57 volunteers.  These 57 volunteers picked up extra shifts and extra work; some even volunteered from home.  We have incredible volunteers who love this mission that provides primary healthcare to our community’s working uninsured.  Today, we are thriving and are well on our way to operating with a full team.  During this season, many students stepped up and answered the call to volunteer with us.  A fun fact:  42% of our student volunteers are commuting from University of South Florida in Tampa just to serve at LVIM.  Today, we have 168 active volunteers serving in both clinical and administrative support roles.  They are all deserving of our unending gratitude. Thank you, Volunteers!








LVIM has an incredible staff, all of whom have worked tirelessly over the last year to ensure that we never skipped a beat and our patients continued to have access to high-quality care.

As an appreciation for staff loyalty, beginning in year five, team members are offered the opportunity to take a 40-hour sabbatical to explore something about which they are passionate.  LVIM provides the time off, and the team member covers the expenses.  At the end of their sabbatical, team members share their experiences and learnings with the rest of the team.

So far this year, two team members have been able to take advantage of this benefit.

LVIM Dentist, Kendrah Harper, spent her sabbatical at a yoga retreat in Greece.







Chief Operations Officer, Kim Taylor, explored the depths of the ocean on a scuba diving excursion in Roatan, Honduras.   During this time, she completed her 200th dive!







Burnout is real, especially in human service professions, and especially on the heels of last year.  It is so important to take time to unplug and recharge.  It is our greatest joy to appreciate our team by giving them time to explore that which fills their hearts and souls.



One great outcome from the COVID-19 season at LVIM is that we had time to vision.  While we were a little bit slower, we had time to pull back and think about our systems, policies, and pain points.  I am happy to share a few developments that are taking root right now.

Next month, we will be launching a patient messaging platform.  Our patients will now have the opportunity to receive appointment reminders from LVIM via automated, yet completely customized, text messages, e-mails, and voicemails. Our volunteers will continue to make person-to-person phone calls, but this new platform will allow us to work around common communication roadblocks which will, in turn, reduce our patient no-show rate.

Additionally, LVIM recently received an Empower Polk grant from the Give Well Community Foundation.  We are thrilled to use these funds to build a patient enrollment portal on our website.  This portal will be designed to streamline the entire onboarding process for our patients.

Lastly, we’ve now expanded our in-house lab services to five days a week.  We have experienced an influx of new patients over the last months, but our lab was only able to operate part-time.  We recently welcomed skilled phlebotomist, Jennifer Anderson, to our team which will more than double our capacity in the lab and decrease wait times for new patient appointments.

Consecutive 4-Star Rating

On behalf of Charity Navigator, I wish to congratulate Lakeland Volunteers In Medicine on attaining the coveted 4-star
rating for demonstrating strong financial health and commitment to accountability and transparency.

The nonprofit sector is advancing and expanding. As our organizations evolve, so do the desires and interests of our
supporters. Astute donors are yearning for greater accountability, transparency, and for concrete results from us. With
more than 1.5 million American charities, Charity Navigator aims to accentuate the work of efficient and transparent
organizations. The intent of our work is to provide donors with essential information to give them greater confidence in
both the charitable decisions that they make and the nonprofit sector.

Based on the most recent information available, we have issued a new rating for your organization. We are proud to
announce Lakeland Volunteers In Medicine has earned our second consecutive 4-star rating. This is our highest
possible rating and indicates that your organization adheres to sector best practices and executes its mission in a
financially efficient way. Attaining a 4-star rating verifies that Lakeland Volunteers In Medicine exceeds industry
standards and outperforms most charities in your area of work. Only 33% of the charities we evaluate have received at
least 2 consecutive 4-star evaluations, indicating that Lakeland Volunteers In Medicine outperforms most other
charities in America. This exceptional designation from Charity Navigator sets Lakeland Volunteers In Medicine apart
from its peers and demonstrates to the public its trustworthiness.

Forbes, Business Week, and Kiplinger’s Financial Magazine, among others, have profiled and celebrated our unique
method of applying data-driven analysis to the charitable sector. We evaluate ten times more charities than our nearest
competitor and currently attract more visitors to our website than all other charity rating groups combined, thus making
us the leading charity evaluator in America. Our data shows that users of our site donated more than they planned to
before viewing our findings, and in fact, it is estimated that last year Charity Navigator influenced approximately $10
billion in charitable gifts.

Your achievement and the 4-star rating will enhance your organization’s fundraising and public relations efforts. Our
favorable review of Lakeland Volunteers In Medicine’s financial health and commitment to accountability &
transparency is now visible on our website.

We wish you continued success in your charitable endeavors.

Michael Thatcher
President and CEO

Activate Super Tickets

World Health Day

by Will Michell

The World Health Organization (WHO) created World Health Day in 1948 to bring awareness to a concerning area of public health each year.  This year the WHO has chosen health inequalities as its main area of concern.  This is an issue that has worsened since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.  Health inequalities are differences in health outcomes among different demographics due to the conditions in which people were born, live, and work.  The WHO has called for action to eliminate inequalities in access to health services, healthy food, healthy living situations, and healthy working conditions during 2021 and beyond.

The Volunteers in Medicine model promotes a culture of caring that recognizes the
strength and dignity of its patients.  The model does so by promoting the idea that the manner in which people are treated during a visit to a VIM clinic is as important as the medical care they receive.  Using this model Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine has been determined to reduce the inequalities of access to health services and healthy food since 2001.  Here are some accomplishments of LVIM and its patients during 2020.

● Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine had over 30,000 patient visits.
● In March 2020 LVIM began the mobile food pantry serving hundreds of families
healthy food.
● 174 of LVIM patients lost weight.
● Over 18,000 prescriptions were filled providing needed medicine to patients.
● Over 50% of patients with either heart problems or diabetes improved their
● 97% of LVIM patients feel healthier.

Health determinants have medical and social factors that contribute to a person’s well-being.  Having accessible and quality care is only a small fraction of a person’s overall health.  Factors that are affected by things outside of the clinic include air and water quality, housing and transit, tobacco use, diet and exercise, alcohol and drug use, sexual activity, education, employment, income, family and social support, and community safety.  It is in these areas where inequalities further the gap between healthy and unhealthy individuals.

Recognition of the things damaging our community’s health is the first step to building a healthier tomorrow. With support from outspoken community leaders, more light will be shed on the problems and potential solutions to health inequalities.

National Doctors Day

The hard work and dedication demonstrated by the doctors at LVIM has always been appreciated and always will be. Today, March 30th gives us a chance to express how much these volunteers have made a difference for those in need.

It is National Doctors’ Day! The first formal celebration of doctors dates back to March 30th, 1933 to honor the physicians in Georgia. Eudora Brown Almond led the movement to mail thank you letters to physicians and place red carnations on the graves of deceased doctors to show thanks. Later in 1991, President George H. W. Bush Proclaimed March 30th is National Doctors’ Day to honor physicians for their dedication and leadership. This date was chosen because on March 30th, 1842 the first use of ether as anesthesia for surgery was done successfully. This led to many medical advancements.

We want to encourage everyone reading this to send a thank you letter to your doctor for their hard work and perseverance during these times. These men and women have dedicated their lives to improving ours.

In appreciation of the many doctors providing care here at LVIM purely for the benefit of our community, here is our letter to you:

Dear Dr. Glen Barden, Dr. Robert Chapman, Dr. Gregory Cook, Dr. Gregory Daniel, Dr. Kevin Dorsett, Dr. Robert Eanett, Dr. Raju Kotipoyina, Dr. James Magnusen, Dr. Eduardo Moreno, Dr. Thomas Oates, Dr. Jeffrey Puretz, Dr. Richard Rutherford, Dr. Fred Schreiber, Dr. Hugo Tapia, and Dr. Uzi Talit,

You all have used your brains, your hands, and your hearts to care for the people of Polk County. You all have made an astronomically valuable contribution to the patients of Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine. We want to thank you for your selfless work. Thank you for your dedication to practicing medicine in the purest form. All of your hard work has been recognized by the staff, volunteers, and patients to create a strong, healthy community.


Virtual Hat Contest

It’s time to dust off your Derby hats or make a new hat and join us in April for our first ever Virtual Hat Contest!

Swan Derby may be rescheduled for October 15th, but we are still going to have some fun in April!  We will be having a Virtual Hat Contest on Instagram throughout the month of April.

WHERE: Instagram @wearelvim

WHEN: April 1st – 30th

WINNING CATEGORIES: Most Creative, Fan Favorite

DETAILS: During the month of April, post a selfie in your Derby hat, tag us @wearelvim and use #swanderby when you post. Make sure you have your friends like your post to be considered for the Fan Favorite category!

The Most Creative winner will be chosen by a group of LVIM staff members and the person who receives the most amount of likes will be the Fan Favorite winner.

Winners will be announced and tagged on Instagram on the week of May 3rd.

Don’t worry, we are not going to miss out on the fun!  Follow us on Instagram @wearelvim throughout the month of April for selfies of our staff and volunteers in their Derby hats!


National Kidney Month

What Can You DO?
Improving Kidney Health Through Diet and Exercise

by Will Mitchell

Did you know that March is National Kidney Month?  According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, it a time to raise awareness about kidney disease.  What better way to raise awareness than to discuss ways to achieve a healthy lifestyle for years to come regardless of a Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) diagnosis.  The following information and recommendations of preventative tactics for health management are meant to provide education to achieve that healthy lifestyle.

Follow The Roadmap To Success To Lower Chronic Kidney Disease Risk Through Lifestyle Modifications. (2021, February 17). NephU.

Chronic Kidney Disease – A breakdown

Roughly 37 million people in the United States have CKD which is about 15% of the population, and 90% do not know they have it.  Impaired kidney function can result in anemia, bone and mineral disorders, cardiovascular disease, hyperglycemia, diabetes, hypertension, and malnutrition.

Incorporation of Healthy Foods

Three of the hardest things for an impaired kidney to control are sodium, potassium, and phosphorus.  We have put together a list of what to avoid and the alternatives.

  • Phosphorus foods to avoid – Dairy, Beans, Lentils, Nuts, Bran Cereal, Oatmeal, Sodas, Iced Teas, Beer.
  • Lower Phosphorus Alternatives – Fresh Fruits, Vegetables, Unenriched Rice Milk, Bread, Pasta, Rice, Fish, Corn and Rice Cereals, Soda without Phosphate additives like Root Beer, Home Brewed Iced Tea.
  • Potassium Rich Foods to Avoid – Honeydew, Cantaloupe, Bananas, Oranges, Tomatoes Tomato Sauce, Dried Beans, Cooked Greens Spinach Kale Collards.
  • Sodium Rich Foods to Avoid – Salt do no use Salt while cooking, Ham, Bacon, Hot Dogs, Lunch Meats, Chicken Tenders, Garlic Salt, Onion Salt, PreSeasoned Meats.
  • Sodium Alternatives and Options – No Salt Added Canned Vegetables, No Salt Added Peanut Butter.

Healthy Cooking Recipes

We know it can be difficult to avoid fast foods, but if you visit under the eating well drop-down menu you can find deliciously healthy recipes. The website has options for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. Some of the yummy breakfast options include blueberry muffins and stuffed breakfast biscuits. The lunch and dinner options include herb-roasted chicken and bourbon-glazed skirt steak. 

Did you know that techniques such as blanching or boiling remove up to 80% of the unwanted minerals such as sodium? When using frozen or canned goods wash them before cooking to remove excess minerals.

Finding The Ingredients

We challenge you to shop locally and support our local farmers.  Not only does shopping local help so many people, but fresh produce is also a healthier alternative to frozen goods. Where can you get these goods? There are several local farmers’ markets and roadside produce stands available throughout Polk County.  The vendors at these markets are your neighbors and friends providing you with healthy food options and community involvement.

Another option for getting healthier foods is to visit the Lakeland Volunteers In Medicine Mobile Food Pantry twice a month, the second and last Tuesday of the month. Located on 600 W Peachtree St Lakeland 33815 this free supply of food can sustain a healthy diet for weeks. Be sure to arrive by 11 am for registration, food will be distributed from 12 pm – 2 pm. 

Healthy Lifestyle

Choosing to eat better is a huge step in the right direction! Yet more than one approach is needed to deal with CKD. Getting out and walking for at least 30 minutes a week can reduce the need for dialysis or kidney transplants. Other options for exercise include swimming or biking, anything that requires consistent motion is beneficial. 

Another component to a healthy lifestyle is to not smoke. Smoking has been linked to the acceleration of kidney disease, as well as other ailments. A helpful tip to quit smoking is to know why you are addicted. When you are thirsty a signal goes off in your brain telling you to drink water. The addiction to nicotine is similar to the need for water, a signal tells us to smoke because it can reduce stress and anxiety. In order to quit, you must find ways to supplement that need for stress relief. A great supplement for the need to smoke is to exercise. Many people find that exercise has the same effect on stress relief as smoking.

Infographic—National Kidney Month 2021. (2021, March 2). NephU.