BRADENTON -- Jill Hinman stopped her medical career nearly two years ago to start building relationships with the homeless as a volunteer member of Bradenton's Bayside Community Church outreach.
"I remember the great reward I got at finally getting a smile from a person after working with them for many months," Hinman said last week. "I will never forget a person saying to me when they came for a meal, 'I really came for a hug. I haven't had one in a long time.' "
After nearly two years, Hinman decided it was time to return to work and she found a way to combine her passion for helping the homeless with her medical background.
Two weeks ago Hinman started as the clinical director of Turning Points' medical and dental clinic at the Bill Galvano One Stop Center, 701 17th Ave. W., Bradenton.
The clinic is a life preserver for many impoverished people struggling to stay healthy. Uninsured and under-insured people may qualify for free services if they have income less than 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines,
"It was a blessing that I was offered a position at Turning Points, where I am working with the same population I developed relationships with on the streets," Hinman said. "Somehow, I have been given this dual opportunity to pour into people compassionately."
Hinman, who is single, said she grew up in a Lakeland home with a violent alcoholic father who, on occasion, left the family homeless.
As a result, she has embraced homelessness as a personal cause.
"She's delightful," said Adell Erozer, Turning Points executive director. "She's very positive. She's been looking at all the policies and procedures we have and I expect, when she is up and running, she will do exciting things here."
As for her goals for the clinic, Hinman said she wants to see volunteerism increase not only at Turning Points but throughout the medical community.
"I want to always inspire, encourage and maintain the level of compassion and caring that is given to our clients through our volunteers, staff and multiple Turning Points services," Hinman said. "It's important to me that excellent care can be given with kindness and understanding."
Hinman's family was poor and she worked her way through school, which set the groundwork for her 27 years of experience in various medical positions, including being physician's assistant. Both her parents have died. She has one brother.
"I graduated from Lakeland High School in 1973 but our family had no money," said Hinman, whose father was German and whose mother was from Northern Italy, and passed along a personality trait of determination. "I researched how I could accomplish my goals. I had some distant family who believed in me. I also tried when possible to get loans, scholarships and grants."
She started her education at Polk Community College in 1977.
She completed the physician assistant's program at the University of Florida and also graduated from UF with a bachelor of health science degree and a bach
elor of science in agriculture with majors in microbiology and biochemistry.
During her career, Hinman has been a biological scientist, lab manager, microbiologist and chemist. She was co-owner of Paradocs Internal Medicine in Traveler's Rest, S.C., where she worked closely with the physician in managing all aspects of business operations and clinical duties.
As part of her duties at Turning Points, Hinman will oversee the rotation of the fourth-year medical students who provide primary care from the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine.
She will also be responsible for the clinic, supervising all medical and dental personnel and making sure the schedule is filled with the necessary volunteer nurses and doctors.
"Jill is one of the most passionate, compassionate, generous, creative and insightful people I have had the pleasure to know, and she is a treasured friend," said Karyl Bartlett, who lives in Washington state. "Jill sees people's needs, cares about their well-being holistically, and finds ways to help."
Bartlett said Hinman, who is also a stained-glass artist and creates art cards, appreciates beauty and balance in life.
Hinman worked at Bradenton's Coastal Orthopedics and Pain Management from 2007 to 2011.
She moved to a pain clinic in Sarasota before deciding to step out of medicine in 2013 to concentrate on volunteering.
"I did not feel as if I was doing anything for the greater good," Hinman said. "I was getting tired of how little time I had for patient education. It seemed that medicine had become dehumanized having all these restrictions."
When she heard about Turning Points having an opening, she decided to pursue it.
She was a child buffer
"I grew up in a dysfunctional family," Hinman said. "I was the little red-haired girl who stood between my mom and my little brother when my dad was raging. In those years there were definitely times of extreme violence. The spousal abuse was terrible. My dad hit all of us but he was worse on my mother and brother. I couldn't go anywhere without worrying that when I came home my brother would have a broken bone."
Hinman was helped by and now supports such groups as Al-anon/Alateen, which offer support for families with alcoholics.
"I don't choose to define myself by where I have been and my less than ideal childhood," Hinman said. "I would rather define myself by the lives I am privileged to touch and be a part of whether it is in my job environment, my volunteer activities, my church ministry, with my friends and even strangers. I want to be life-giving, a light in the darkness. I am passionate about this newest direction in my life. I am faith directed and firmly believe that nothing happens by chance or accident."
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-74507072 or contact her via Twitter@RichardDymond.