SCHAUMBURG, ILL. — What do you do when you need to feed two great passions in your life? In the case of Charlotte-based dermatologist Gary B. Slaughter, MD, FAAD, you merge your passion for flight with your passion for medicine to help children with severe medical needs and their families fly to important health appointments. As the executive vice president of Flight Charities, Inc., a North Carolina-based non-profit that provides free medical transportation to families with financial challenges, Dr. Slaughter is fulfilling his own desire to give back to his community.
“My motto is, ‘even the simple man can do great wonders with the right spirit in his heart’,” said Dr. Slaughter. “With that in mind, and to help others, an important rule I learned through Boy Scouts, I decided to funnel my energies for both flying and medicine into this organization.”
Flight Charities is a volunteer organization made up of pilots who donate both their time and planes to provide transportation to those in medical and financial need. The organization never charges for its services. By being a key member in the start of an independent flight company, he and, his team of pilots are available to assist many more families with flights throughout the southeast. Their part of any “mission” can be a quick flight between larger cities or it can be a direct flight for families.
What strikes him the most, is the resiliency and courage that the children he flies show, even with their difficult medical situations. A recent patient, an eight-year-old girl who had needed a series of skin grafts throughout her young life, was all smiles during her flight.
“It is rewarding being a pilot and flying for a cause and impacting the lives of children with serious diseases,” said Dr. Slaughter. “It is very moving to see children with such hope and courage despite their challenging situations.”
For Dr. Slaughter, the inspiration he receives from these children is what starting him on the path to medical school and piloting. As a teen, Dr. Slaughter was a volunteer with Angel Flight, another free air transportation organization for families, where he provided comfort, and sometimes distraction, for children on their way to often difficult medical appointments. This opportunity steeled his resolve to become a physician and help those in need.
It also developed his interest in flying, thanks in part to encouragement and inspiration from some local members of the Tuskegee Airmen nonprofit group. After finishing his medical training, he completed his pilot training requirements and received his flying license. Soon after, he made the decision to return to the organization that had made such an impact upon him as a youth. After volunteering thousands of hours of flight time with Angel Flight, he founded Flight Charities.
“When I started volunteering, I wanted to see how I could impact patients outside of my private practice,” said Dr. Slaughter. “Now that I’ve seen the need and the importance of providing free medical transportation, it feels good to be a part of something larger – something that makes children smile even when facing dire medical situations. That’s what makes it worth it for me.”
For Dr. Slaughter, flying missions is not only medically necessary for the children, it’s therapeutic for him as well.
“A lot of us are caught up in the day to day motions – go to work, go to a meeting, spend time with your family – but to really be on the front lines, roll up your sleeves, and do some volunteer work, I feel like that’s what everyone has to keep in mind,” said Dr. Slaughter.
As a board-certified member of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), Dr. Slaughter was recognized as a Member Making a Difference in his community. The AAD’s volunteerism committee selects members who have participated in volunteer activities in their community to be recognized by their peers for their efforts.
Headquartered in Schaumburg, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology (Academy), founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential, and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of more than 16,000 physicians worldwide, the Academy is committed to: advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education, and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of healthier skin, hair and nails. For more information, contact the Academy at 1-888-462-DERM (3376) or www.aad.org.