Helping people with medical and other expenses

While recently participating in an online CME activity involving the case of a woman with cancer, I was struck by the urge to financially help her. She'd never been married, had no medical insurance, and worked in a low-paying job. She lost ten weeks of work, and hence 10 weeks of income, because of her cancer and its treatment. Her bills undoubtedly continued to pile up during that time, and her medical treatment was exorbitantly expensive, so I didn't need a crystal ball to assume she needed financial help. But how could I get it to her and others like her?

Desiree Vargas Wrigley
Desiree Vargas Wrigley

Desiree Vargas Wrigley has the answer that she terms “strategic philanthropy.” I call it a superb idea. Through the GiveForward organization she co-founded, people can create “GiveForward pages [that] empower friends and family to send love and financial support to patients as they navigate a medical crisis.”

I suggest that physicians and nurses embrace her brilliant solution to a common problem. Here's how we can help:

  • Whenever we give case presentations (online or elsewhere), give participants a link to the patient's GiveForward page that we encouraged them to set up.
  • Whenever we identify patients in our clinical practice who might benefit by using GiveForward, suggest they create a GiveForward page for themselves.

Physicians and nurses are usually pressed for time, so GiveForward might want to develop downloadable brochures (in the Adobe Acrobat PDF format) that hospitals, clinics, and individual physicians or nurses could print and distribute.

The GiveForward concept could be expanded to help others, too. I have a soft spot in my heart for helping single mothers after seeing how my mother struggled to raise children on her own. In addition to donating money, many people could help single mothers or elderly folks in other ways, such as by shoveling snow, raking leaves, mowing lawns, fixing a furnace or leaky pipe, and so on. I've donated free firewood, food, and shoveled countless tons of snow up to 5 feet deep in addition to giving hundreds of thousands of dollars in free medical care, but that just whetted my appetite for giving even more.

Another possible GiveForward expansion might be to help students meet college expenses.

I eagerly want to help people in impoverished countries, but foreign aid given by our government often ends up in the Swiss bank accounts of dictators. I'd welcome a GiveForward channel of giving that directly connects donors with recipients. One of my pending inventions will make it easy to give one of life's basic necessities, but other needs remain. GiveForward could fill that gap.

Do you have an idea for expanding the GiveForward concept? I'm excited by it. If there were a Nobel Prize for helping meet social needs, I'd nominate it.

Ethan Austin and Desiree Vargas Wrigley
Ethan Austin and Desiree Vargas Wrigley,
Co-Founders of
Kudos to them for a splendid idea!


  1. Another great charity: Grahamtastic Connection that offers “free computers and Internet access to children with cancer and other serious illnesses for educational purposes.
  2. Men Behaving Nicely: Selfless Acts by Men Increase When Attractive Women Are Nearby based on an article in the British Journal of Psychology: Men behaving nicely: Public goods as peacock tails.
    Comment: The upshot of those articles was that men (but not women) contribute more when near members of the opposite sex, and men contribute even more if nearby women are attractive. While physical proximity undoubtedly magnifies such generosity, I think that merely seeing attractive women increases giving even if they are not present. Thus, Desiree's pictures are a stroke of genius, but not everyone is bright enough to appreciate that. On the day I discovered her and GiveForward, I found some people criticizing her online. No matter how good someone is, there always seems to be a negative person somewhere in cyberspace who finds a flimsy reason to knock others.
The views expressed on this page may or may not reflect my current opinions, nor do they necessarily represent my past ones. After reading a slice of what I wrote in my various websites and books, you may conclude that I am a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican. Wrong; there is a better alternative. Just as the primary benefit from debate classes results when students present and defend opinions contrary to their own, I use a similar strategy as a creative writing tool to expand my brainpower—and yours. Mystified? Stay tuned for an explanation. PS: The wheels in your head are already turning a bit faster, aren't they?

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Reference: Imagining dialogue can boost critical thinking: Excerpt: “Examining an issue as a debate or dialogue between two sides helps people apply deeper, more sophisticated reasoning …”

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