April 18, 2024

Volunteer Spotlight: Dr. Marilyn Mistry (Ilene Goodman Award)

Volunteers see Ilene’s radiant smile in the clinic whenever they clock in for a shift.

Each December, CommunityHealth hosts our Volunteer of the Year Awards, which spotlights our most outstanding volunteers. “Outstanding” can look many different ways – excellence, respect, collaboration. All are essential components of a CommunityHealth volunteer, and we see them reflected throughout the clinic in each of our 1,000+ volunteers.

The Ilene Goodman award goes one step further, to recognize those who truly go above and beyond in every facet of their service to CommunityHealth and our patients.

Ilene Goodman and her husband Milton were active volunteers with CommunityHealth almost from the very beginning. The Goodman’s volunteered at the clinic once a week, every week, for many years. Ilene often supported the Front Desk team, and could be found in the lounge, where she would organize medical records (in the days of paper charts!) for the clinic.

It wasn’t just the amount of hours Ilene contributed that set her apart, though – it was her attitude. She was “the quintessential volunteer,” recalled Volunteer Medical Director, Dr. Babs Waldman. Ilene’s warm and welcoming nature showed in her relationships with the staff and other volunteers. She knew almost everyone who came through the clinic and built deep connections with many of them.

Most of all, Ilene was always willing to step in and do whatever was needed in that moment. Emily Hendel, Director of Clinical Services, said that no task was too big or too small for Ilene… she was always asking “what more can I do?

The Ilene Goodman award is given to a volunteer who embodies the spirit of “what more can I do?”

In 2023, the clear choice to echo that ethos was Dr. Marilyn Mistry.

Dr. Mistry has been a volunteer primary care provider with CommunityHealth since March of 2017, and has surpassed 1,100 hours of service in that time! Currently, she is the only one of our many volunteer providers who sees patients regularly at all three of our locations – our headquarters in West Town as well as our satellite clinics CommunityHealth at Enlace in Little Village and CommunityHealth at Onward House in Belmont Cragin.

March of 2024 marked Dr. Mistry’s seventh anniversary of active volunteering with CommunityHealth. She started with us in 2017, coming in once per month to see patients as a primary care provider. These days, you will find Dr. Mistry in the exam room two or even three days per week. She serves as a continuity provider for dozens of patients, following their care closely and managing chronic conditions as well as new concerns. In addition to her growing roster of regularly scheduled appointments, she was a huge help during CommunityHealth’s migrant response efforts in 2023, taking on additional clinics to make sure that new patients could be seen promptly.

Above all, it is Dr. Mistry’s commitment to providing the best patient care that she can which sets her apart. She is always willing to overbook her schedule for urgent appointments, always makes sure to follow up with her patients personally, and is always ready to advocate for them.

CommunityHealth sat down with Dr. Mistry to learn more about her devotion to quality health care for all…

Tell us more about yourself and your background.

“I grew up on a farm in Ohio before moving to Chicago for college and medical school. My boyfriend (now husband) and I did the couples match and landed in Connecticut for residencies for 3 years. Then we returned to the Chicago area to begin our careers. We have 2 sets of twin boys, ages 20 and 17.”

Why and how did you begin volunteering at CommunityHealth?

“When my older boys started middle school, I retired from my practice to be more available at home. I was looking for an opportunity to use my medical skills as a volunteer when I found out about CommunityHealth online. I began volunteering at CommunityHealth in March 2017, seeing patients once a month. Over the years I kept adding more days. I currently volunteer twice a week.”

Do you remember your first day? What surprised you?

“My first day at CommunityHealth I remember my clinic coordinator, Gloria, being an incredible resource. She taught me how the clinic operates and how to navigate Athena to find the information that I needed.”

What has kept you volunteering all this time?

“I have been fortunate to develop my own continuity panel of patients. I am invested in ensuring that they have access to health care. That personal relationship is rewarding and a driving force in my continued desire to volunteer.”

Why is volunteering important to you? What do you get out of it?

“Volunteering is important to me because I feel that everyone deserves access to health care, just like everyone deserves access to food, clothing, and shelter. I get the opportunity to use my medical training to help others stay healthy. Knowledge that I am making someone’s life better keeps me coming back to volunteer more.”

What advice would you give to a new volunteer at CommunityHealth?

“My advice to a new volunteer would be to listen to your patients. They will be your biggest teachers. Sometimes I learn the most by asking why a patient has not completed testing or taken medication as directed. Usually there is a barrier to health care that I had not considered. Then we can work together to navigate past that barrier.”

Outside of volunteering with CommunityHealth, how do you like to spend your free time?

“When not at CommunityHealth, I enjoy spending time with my family, gardening, hiking, and running. Fun fact: My husband and I are in the process of running a race (10K to half marathon) in every state. So far we have completed 23 states.”

What’s your favorite book or movie?

“My favorite author is Tom Clancy. He was amazing at writing spy novels by weaving together several story arcs in one book.”

Favorite song and/or band?

“My favorite band is AC/DC. I saw them in concert at the United Center before they stopped touring. It was the best concert ever; however, I had trouble hearing for 24 hours after the concert.”

What’s your favorite Halloween costume you’ve ever had?

“My favorite Halloween costume was when I made myself into a Lego brick. My boys loved it because I needed to empty 8 Cool Whip containers to use as the nubs.”

Compassionate, culturally competent, and committed volunteers like Dr. Mistry and Ilene Goodman are what make CommunityHealth more than a free clinic.

As we train the next generation of health care providers to ensure the Future of Health is based in quality health care for all, our clinics invites you to join the largest volunteer-based free clinic in the nation by becoming a volunteer.