2,395 reasons to get involved

FoMD achieves goal in 2013 Hours of Service Volunteer Challenge

Amy Hewko - 2 May 2013

The challenge to collaborate toward 2013 hours of community service in 22 days seemed daunting when it was first introduced on April 5 as part of the Faculty's centennial celebrations. Faculty members, staff, students and alumni faced the challenge with full force.

Everyone's hard work paid off: the final hour count came to nearly 2,395 hours on April 27, the end of International Volunteer Week. While that final count was impressive, it was the volunteers' stories that were truly inspiring.

"I love this challenge," commented Deb Key, a WCHRI staff member. "Everybody's busy--doesn't matter what you do. You're either busy studying, working, recreating or with family. I'm sure people who gave their hour didn't find that they suffered at all."

Deb Key regularly volunteers for the JDRF, a foundation dedicated to juvenile diabetes research. She was first attracted to the organization after her grandson, Bryan, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at five years old. "That little boy wouldn't be alive without the research that they support," she said of the JDRF. "All the research that goes into the [insulin] pump makes his life less of a challenge."

To support the Faculty's goal, she also completed some hours with the Stollery Children's Hospital Foundation and the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation. The Stollery Children's Hospital provided care for her grandson following his diagnosis.

"I think we always get more out of volunteer work than we give," she said of her experiences.

Though Key's connection to her volunteer work is personal, medical students Kerry Wong and Phil Quon were inspired by future generations when they began organizing Mini Docs.

Mini Docs is a day camp that exposes children under twelve years of age to the basics of medicine. The children visit workstations where they learn key information that is compounded to diagnose a "patient" at the final triage station.

"It's really great because the kids are fully immersed in the medical experience and they get to wear stethoscopes and scrubs," said Quon. "I think this camp is also cool because at the end we bring in a fake patient with cuts and bruises and the kids get to utilize all their new skills to treat and bandage the patient."

"They even got to work with our heart simulator which cost $70,000. That's the one that we use, and that's the one they got to learn with," Wong added.

Wong and Quon are also organizing Asclepius Camp for Youth. The week-long day camp is designed to expose high school students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds to medical professions. The camp offers mock-shadowing experiences, practical clinical skills and lectures on financial and academic planning. This event is sponsored by the University of Alberta and is entirely cost-free for participants.

"[Volunteering] helps me remember why I'm doing what I'm doing because it's hard to remember people when you're looking at your books for 12 hours a day. It nourishes my soul, as cheesy as it sounds," said Wong. "It reminds me that medicine is about people. In [pre-clinical education], it's hard to see that because you're just studying all the time. If I didn't volunteer, I don't think I would be happy."

Of the 2,395 recorded hours, students led with 2,182 recorded hours (91%). Staff counted 110 hours (4.5%), faculty logged 62 hours (2.5%) and alumni completed 26 hours (1%). Volunteers from outside the Faculty also contributed a total of 41 hours (1.7%).

The Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry's continues the medical school's centennial celebrations with the 100 Years of Medicine Photo Exhibit. It will be open from May 1 to 31 in the John W. Scott Health Sciences Library in Walter C. Mackenzie Health Sciences Centre.