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July 11, 2019

On the Beginnings of My Projects & an Introduction to Volunteers in Medicine—Raina Wellman, BFA Graphic Design, 2019

by Raina Wellman
One of the graphics I created for VIM using data they wanted to share on their Instagram (for donors and people curious about their mission and outcomes).

For the start of my Maharam Fellowship I’ve been working on several projects in order to get a greater sense of what it means to provide healthcare and promote wellness, particularly in the United States. 

My work in the field began this June with a series of collaborations and graphic design projects at Volunteers in Medicine (the Cascades office in Bend, Oregon).

VIM uses retired medical personnel to provide voluntary, part-time help for those without access to medical care. Currently, there are 88 member clinics from 26 states in the VIM Alliance. These locally managed and operated clinics provide health care to the uninsured and medically underserved in their communities. As an organization, VIM created a model that provides a comprehensive, guided process for creating free clinics, which is meant to be rooted in community organizing. This means that the clinics are able to run effectively and offer the services that their communities truly need.

VIM has no federal funding, they use volunteers and pro-bono healthcare help from generous practitioners or hospitals. Many of the pharmaceutical prescriptions as well as medical devices are donated as well. With over 80 clinics nationally, VIM must demonstrate it’s dedication to quality care and value as an organization in order to receive financial support in the form of donations and grants. 

Following the expansion of medicaid programs, VIM has begun primarily serving patients that are not U.S. citizens and who mainly are Spanish speakers. As a clinic, they only take in patients without insurance and no billing occurs. I also learned that appointments often take double the time due to the need for translation between patient and health provider.

During my time on site I was able to attend group meetings where they discussed issues and goals. One in particular came up a few times. How can they clearly communicate (to volunteers and donors especially) where money comes from and how they operate? As the clinic runs only on private donations, how can they communicate gifts from the community effectively? Within nonprofit structures it is so important to be clear about the ways in which your organization is running.

Later, on June 24th, I joined a group of Oregon providers who were meeting to discuss diversity and healthcare and more big questions arose. How can they shift views to show how inequalities effect everyone? How can they break the myth that Oregon is not diverse in order to provide and support better care models? How can they create greater awareness of need and address disparity at all levels?

These questions are all so important and difficult. I know that visual communication can play a role in resolving them, but it certainly isn’t the whole solution, nor is it a project that can be properly taken on by an individual. Through a larger scale project, the “Roadmap to Health Equity,” I’ve been able to witness a new model of collaboratively working to provide the best possible content to the public. .

Since early June, I’ve been working with VIM (and several other health organizations) on the “Roadmap to Health Equity” project. With projects like this one, every detail is discussed and many people are involved. Currently, they’re collaboratively working to best define their mission, goals, and messaging as a whole. I’ve virtually attended several large meetings (often in the double digits), which have included participants from each participating organization, including Americares, the National Association of Free Clinics (NAFC), and Loyola University of Chicago. In projects like these I am always both impressed and shocked by how much energy and thought is put into finding the exact right words and designs.

Here are a two of the drafts I created for the project:

So far, I’ve felt like I’ve been given the opportunity to operate as my own “design agency,” providing visual communication aid to groups in medicine and healthcare. In the process of engaging (in person and remotely) with VIM (and now the New York Health Department) I’ve been able to learn about how different agencies relating to health and wellness operate, utilize funding, engage the public, and their interesting relationships with graphic design.

Working with VIM has been a lovely experience and I plan to continue donating my “designer time” once my fellowship has concluded. I have never felt so welcome or appreciated (right off the bat!) at an organization. As a group, they are really aware of the power of good visual communication in a way that truly surprised me.

So far the bulk of my work produced directly for VIM (Cascades) is headed straight for Instagram. They know the power of social media too! I worked a great deal on visualizing statistic information for VIM, which seems to be a consistent graphic design need within public health/healthcare provider sectors. I’m starting to wish I took statistics back in high school instead of Calculus.

When creating these designs I needed to use VIM’s current brand colors, shades of pink, orange, green, and blue. Besides these color restrictions I had a great deal of freedom. I aimed to create designs that were playful and engaging. Additionally, as these are primarily infographics I wanted to add a human element to the content, rather than just focusing on numbers.

I also created some holiday content they will use later in the year… Before shifting projects, I shared all of the visual tools with them (in an Illustrator file) so that they can continue producing their versions of my designs with new content and new design experiments…

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