Community-Based Service At Its Finest
CHEST PAST PRESIDENT, D. ROBERT MCCAFFREE, MD, MASTER FCCP, LEADS BY EXAMPLE OVER 40-YEAR CAREER
Can a community service award represent a set of career defining principles? Can it motivate others to be more altruistic and embody one’s commitment to social responsibility?
It certainly can, and if you’re referring to the CHEST Foundation Community Service Grant Honoring D. Robert McCaffree, MD, Master FCCP, it absolutely does.
On its surface, the award seems simple enough – it recognizes clinicians who do good in their communities. Dig a little deeper, however, and you’ll realize that “simple” isn’t part of the equation at all.
In fact, the award encompasses initiatives that are both complex and imaginative, heartfelt and innovative: clinicians who have done everything from providing TB treatment for prisoners in Russia, to bringing potable drinking water to villages in Venezuela, to supplying malaria nets for underserved communities in Africa.
If that isn’t enough to convince you, ask about the group of doctors who found a way to enable ventilator-dependent children to attend summer camp for the first time.
These are the stories behind the award – community-based projects, dreamt up by those who practice chest medicine, who have made a tangible impact on a community in need.
THE FOUNDATION BRINGS THE AWARD TO LIFE
During his tenure as President-Elect of CHEST, D. Robert McCaffree, MD, MSHA, Master FCCP, originally initiated the award as a way to support his colleagues in their community service endeavors, and those who knew him best were not surprised.
“It has been my pleasure to be exposed to many incredible people in chest medicine. However, the one person who epitomizes leadership and community service is Dr. Bob McCaffree. He distinguishes himself with his incredibly generous, kind, and unselfish personality.”
John Studdard, MD, FCCP a Past President of CHEST
Trusting in Dr. McCaffree’s vision, the Foundation quickly supported the award program, giving out more than a half-million dollars in grants to worthy research candidates, generous community service volunteers, and distinguished scholars. To date, over $10 million has been given specifically to community service projects.
“The program has been successful beyond my imagination. Securing funding for these projects has been one of the most gratifying activities that I’ve been involved in, and I’ve been involved in a lot,” said Dr. McCafree.
THE HEART OF ALTRUISM: A GUIDING PHILOSOPHY
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the award itself is as unostentatious as its namesake. When Dr. McCaffree speaks about the philosophy that guides his work, he simply states, “Society gives our profession a lot of freedom, and in return, expects us to provide some degree of altruism. I take that expectation seriously.”
Providing care in free clinics, treating an individual who can’t afford to pay, volunteering time to develop public policies – he rattles off the list as if it were second nature, and, in his case, it is. “Altruism can be expressed in many forms, but at its heart, you’ll always find a focus on community.”
Dr. McCaffree acknowledges that he’s tried to reflect this philosophy in the things that he’s achieved throughout his career, and achieve he did.
“Altruism can be expressed in many forms, but at its heart, you’ll always find a focus on community.”
President of the American College of Chest Physicians, President of the CHEST Foundation, President of the Oklahoma State Medical Society, Chairman of Hospice of Oklahoma County, Chief of Staff of the VA Medical Center, Co-Director of the Oklahoma Tobacco Research Center; Dr. McCaffree’s CV reads like a wish list of professional appointments that one could only hope to achieve in the span of their career.
Fortunately for us, Bob McCaffree was able to use these experiences as a guidepost for where he wanted other doctors to follow, but he didn’t do it alone.
BEHIND EVERY GREAT MAN…
Except for his 4 years in the Navy, Dr. McCaffree spent the entirety of his career practicing medicine in Oklahoma County, where he and his wife, Mary Anne McCaffree, MD, FCCP, were instrumental in curating and implementing various community-based programs. “My wife holds the same values as I do when it comes to serving our community, and in terms of service to society, we’ve both tried to do our part,” he states.
They have both been recognized individually and together for their efforts. For example, both received the Archbishop Eusebius Beltran Award from Catholic Charities, and they were both honored with the Oklahoma University College of Medicine’s Deans Award for Distinguished Community Service.
“As is frequently said, behind every great man is a greater woman, and that is the case with Bob. Mary Anne is incredible and has unselfishly given her time to so many worthwhile endeavors.”
John Studdard, MD, FCCP
One notable project that Dr. McCaffree and his wife worked on together was Schools for a Healthy Lifestyle, a program that addresses the issue of children’s health, where the couple was integral in getting the organization started, and Mary Anne helped get its first big national grant. “We actually received an award together for our parts in its beginning, ” he said.
Before he continues, he interjects to say that he and his wife were the “only couple in history who were both presidents of the Oklahoma State Medical Society.” Sharing that makes him chuckle, and it’s obvious that his relationship with Mary Anne is something very special.
HUMBLE BEGINNINGS LEAD TO MAJOR CHANGE
One of Dr. McCaffree’s first ventures into community service began when he was volunteering at a free clinic run by the Oklahoma County Medical Society. Helping treat marginalized populations within the city ignited his passion, and from there, he continued to focus on underserved communities.
He joined the original board of the Healthcare Alliance for the Uninsured when he recognized that uninsured patients were having a hard time receiving specialty care even though they had referrals. “We discovered that specialists were reluctant to take these types of appointments in part because the patients weren’t showing up.”
To solve the problem, his team implemented strategies to help ease that burden, including pre-appointment testing, access to free transportation, and reminder calls. By the time Bob left the Alliance, Oklahoma County had 17 free clinics using their service to coordinate referrals.
He went on to become a key player and first Chairman of one of the first hospice programs to the city. As a physician-backed, not-for-profit organization, Hospice of Oklahoma County provided palliative care to terminally ill patients regardless of their ability to pay. In 1 year’s time, residents in Oklahoma County went from not having any hospice options to having a choice of programs. Subsequently, he was also a founder and first Chairman of the Hospice Foundation of Oklahoma.
TAKING ON BIG TOBACCO – FUNNELING SETTLEMENT DOLLARS BACK INTO THE COMMUNITY
During his tenure as President-Elect at CHEST, Dr. McCaffree consulted with and testified before Congress when the first national tobacco settlement was being discussed. During this time, he was a member of the ENACT coalition (Effective National Action to Control Tobacco) and the Koop-Kessler Congressional Advisory Committee. While this national settlement attempt failed, subsequently, when a multistate settlement agreement passed, Oklahoma was the only state to place the majority of those settlement dollars into a constitutionally protected trust fund, the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Fund (TSET). The Attorney General of Oklahoma asked Dr. McCaffree to serve on the Board of Directors of TSET, and he served as the first Chairman.
The corpus has grown to over one billion dollars and provided the money for the (OTRC), the Oklahoma Quitline, and multiple other statewide activities to control tobacco and improve health.
A FINAL REFLECTION
“I was fortunate to be appointed to the Board of Directors of TSET, and through that experience, was able to effect many positive changes in Oklahoma,” he says. “In fact, I’ve been given many opportunities to help people during my career, and, for that, I consider myself extremely lucky.”
His words make it clear that he’s never cared much about accolades – although he has plenty – and maybe that’s what sets him apart. “Bob has unselfishly shared his time to help better the lives of others and that’s what makes him special,” said Dr. Studdard. His sentiment sums it up perfectly.
A lot of pieces need to come together in order to make a difference in a community. Someone needs to lead by example, others need to take notice and participate, and someone needs to provide support. At the CHEST Foundation, we have all of the pieces, and we’ve seen what they can do when given the chance.
Now, more than ever, we are asking for your support. Patients who are at-risk of severe illness due to COVID-19 need our help and will continue to need it for the foreseeable future. While our community service microgrants have already made an impact in communities across the country, we need to sustain those efforts. People who are compromised by lung disease may be suffering in silence. Let’s make sure they aren’t suffering alone. Donate today.
OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE
COVID-19 SHED LIGHT ON IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNITY SERVICE GRANTS
As COVID-19 continues to impact every aspect of our daily lives, the importance of our community service work has become more apparent than ever before.
3 MINUTE READ
FINDING THE RIGHT OXYGEN DELIVERY SYSTEM CAN BE CHALLENGING
Imagine having your freedom taken away because you were prescribed the wrong medical equipment. Unfortunately, that’s the reality that so many oxygen-dependent patients face on a daily basis.
5 MINUTE READ
MAKING A DIFFERENCE ONE PATIENT AT A TIME
On a hot summer day in Chicago, the Daley Plaza was littered with booths from the CHEST Foundation’s Lung Health Experience event – each one manned buy a nurse, respiratory therapist, or pulmonologist ready to perform complimentary spirometry tests.
5 MINUTE READ
YOUR CHEST FOUNDATION: SUPPORTING COMMUNITIES DURING COVID-19
The entire world has been affected by the COVID-19 crisis, yet many of our most vulnerable continue to suffer in silence. The CHEST Foundation is diligently working to help give voice to these all-too-often isolated and forgotten patients.
2 MINUTE READ
The Donor Spotlight June 2020 issue is also available as a PDF Download the PDF»