As the Volunteer Summit on March 25 approaches, we are profiling our many alumni who have contributed their time, talent or treasure to important causes and organizations.
Michael Negraeff (MD’92) is a pain medicine specialist living in Vancouver, BC. He is the founder of the Pain BC society, a non-profit organization that serves people living with pain and the healthcare professionals that serve them. He recently stepped down as Pain BC’s chair of the board of directors, a role he held for six years.
What specifically attracted you to volunteering?
At the time, I wasn’t thinking “what can I volunteer for?” I was thinking, “we need much better pain management services in BC.” After I finished my training (I was in an accident during my training and have a spinal cord injury), I decided that working in the operating room was going to be a bit too challenging from a wheelchair and did a fellowship in pain medicine in Sydney, Australia. When I came back to Vancouver I started working in Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) taking care of complex pain problems in the hospital and it eventually led to outpatient work. But we had no capacity in the pain clinics.
So, I didn’t seek out volunteering; volunteering found me as the best vehicle to achieve our purposes. It was important because as a society, and as volunteers, we were free to say what we wanted and felt was right to send the message.
What keeps you motivated to continue volunteering?
What I really like about it is that you are free to get as engaged as you want. You are free to work in the direction you want. You are not beholden to anyone other than the mission of the organization, which you are really happy to push forward.
The other thing I really like is all the other people you meet. Volunteering changed me, because I began to see through other peoples’ lenses.
I was also very inspired by others that were volunteering for us. They had severe pain, and had nothing else much to give besides their time and energy. Why? Our message and mission resonated with them. Volunteering is contagious. When you look at the others that are volunteering, and for nothing to gain but to feel a part of something, it is very inspiring and urges you to keep on going.
What’s your proudest moment/accomplishment from your volunteering experience?
The single proudest I have felt of the organization was when we successfully got the first grant from the Ministry of Health in 2013. Things were very dire for us financially. Morale was low, but nobody quit. We tightened the belt and pressed on with various funding source options. Right when things were darkest, we successfully landed the grant. It changed everything. All kinds of initiatives got off the ground after that and momentum has continued to build. I was really proud of the team that kept coming up with ideas.