Taking Volunteering to New Heights
By Will Richmond, Head of US Value & Access, Rare Diseases and Rare Blood Disorders
Flying is one of my greatest passions. As a licensed commercial pilot, I’ve been fortunate to have a unique opportunity to combine this personal passion and expertise with my professional passion: helping patients access the treatments they need.
Working in the rare disease and rare blood disorder space, my job focuses on helping to clear the path toward critical treatments for patients with devastating and often life-threatening conditions. In some cases, patients have limited time and few or no treatment options – making timely care not just a priority, but a necessity.
Understanding the urgency of timely access to care for patients in need has given me a profound desire to give back however I can in the hope of making a difference in someone’s life. Through my career, I have been able to find a new way to help break down access barriers with volunteer work – allowing me to help others while also doing something I love.
In my free time, I volunteer my aircraft and service to an organization called Patient Airlift Services (PALS), which helps transport patients to and from faraway medical appointments, wherever they may be. Through this service, people living in underserved areas can travel for free to receive critical diagnosis, treatment and care that could otherwise be out of their reach.
With hospitals and health systems struggling from financial hardships, provider burnout and closures even before the COVID-19 pandemic, many communities around the country, particularly in rural areas, are experiencing limited or no access to care. With this unmet need in mind, helping to fly patients to medical appointments was a no-brainer for me as it combined my professional and recreational passions and allowed me to give back to my community in a way not many people can.
Giving back to others in this way has shown me the impact of treatment access on a deeper, personal level. Recently, I flew a patient home one evening on a very long flight. My mind was very much focused on safely completing the trip, not realizing the emotional journey it had been for my passenger. After helping the patient out of the plane, I instinctively offered a handshake but was completely taken off guard when he gave me a huge hug and told me how much it meant to him to have the help. It was a really touching experience, and I was a little teary as I refueled the plane before heading back home!
The chance to bring a patient from a faraway rural setting to quality medical care and back is an unbelievable privilege. Sanofi’s “We Volunteer” month is a reminder not only of this privilege, but our duty to give back to our communities. I encourage anyone interested in helping others to join me and my colleagues giving back this month and beyond to help make someone’s day better or easier. When it comes to getting started with volunteering, I recommend finding your passion and exploring ways to put it to work helping others.
To learn more about Patient Airlift Services, click here.