Volunteering during COVID-19 - a message from Dr. Cheng

Dear learners,

As you may know, there is an increasing number of requests from government, professional bodies, and private and public entities to medical schools, student leaders, student organizations and individual students to volunteer in a variety of roles that are rapidly evolving from the COVID-19 pandemic.

We know that many of you are committed to helping others respond to COVID-19. Some of you are seeking volunteer opportunities in active health care environments (e.g., door-screening at health clinics). Others are offering assistance to health care professionals who may be at a higher risk of exposure and need assistance (e.g., providing childcare for medical professionals in our affiliated hospitals) or with potentially affected community members (e.g., assisting isolated and vulnerable seniors).

Your commitment to public service is commendable, as well as your support to the broader efforts to combat the COVID-19 virus. Please know, however, that there is no expectation from us that you participate in these activities. If you wish to volunteer, you must make your own decision about what level of risk you are willing to accept. As future health professionals, we know that you will make responsible decisions.

The purpose of this email is to give you some general information, should you decide to engage in these activities, so that you can make informed decisions and keep yourselves as safe as possible.

Specifically, we want you to know that these volunteer opportunities are independent of academic studies and the University, even if the activities take place on sites that are affiliated with the University (e.g. affiliated hospitals or with academic appointees requesting volunteers). As a volunteer, the University’s insurance coverage, WSIB coverage through the University (including the coverage applicable during student placements), financial support, or logistical support would not be available to you.

Unless the organization or site at which you are volunteering makes it available to you, as a volunteer, you may only be covered in case of injury or illness in the course of volunteering through OHIP/UHIP and your extended health coverage plan, if you have one.

Before volunteering, you may wish to ask some questions of the volunteer site such as:

  • What does the role entail?
  • What training and supervision will be offered? What is the likelihood of your exposure to the COVID-19 virus?
  • What personal protective equipment will be provided to you?
  • What health or personal injury benefits will be provided to you if you become ill or injured while volunteering?
  • What insurance covers you if someone is injured by you?

These are but a few of the questions you could ask to ensure your safety and wellbeing.

Please make sure to protect yourself, to follow public health advice, and to inform yourself of the potential risks of any volunteer opportunity. I wish you all good health.

Acting Dean, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry
Distinguished University Professor & EPICOR Research Chair
Western University