Reap the rewards of helping others
Helping people is what doctors do every day. But many physicians at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois, also take their skills outside the hospital to serve the community as volunteers.
While their efforts undeniably make a difference in the lives of others, the following doctors say volunteering also benefits the volunteer.
Paul J. Jones, MD
Jones, an ear, nose and throat specialist, oversees the Rush Community Services Initiatives Program, a collection of student-run volunteer activities. He also volunteers at the Community Health Clinic of Chicago, where most of his patients are working people without health insurance. In addition, Jones spends about two weeks every other year on unpaid medical missions to Vietnam.
He’s learned important lessons both at home and abroad.
“In Chicago, you realize very little separates someone who is homeless from someone who lives on Lake Shore Drive when it comes to the way they respond to illness and their medical and emotional needs during that time,” Jones says.
In Vietnam, you learn flexibility. “When the hospital’s power goes out or the suction machine stops working or a particular suture is unavailable, you learn to make do with what you have,” he says.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that I get much more out of volunteering than I contribute,” Jones says. “It gets you back to why you became a doctor — helping a fellow person for no other reward than a thank-you.”
Stephanie Luther, MD
Luther, an internist and pediatrician at Rush, volunteers her time to treat some of Chicago’s most disadvantaged patients — the homeless.
Luther is medical director of the urgent care clinic at the Franciscan House of Mary and Joseph, one of the city’s largest overnight shelters.
“We see a lot of everyday stuff like athlete’s foot, but it’s athlete’s foot gone crazy because they haven’t been able to care for it,” Luther says. “Even the smallest things — such as Tylenol for a headache — are things they wouldn’t otherwise be able to get.”
Luther says helping those most in need rejuvenates her.
“It’s one of the best parts of my life,” she says. “It keeps me going. During tough times or frustrating experiences, it reminds me that there is goodness in this world and within all of us.”
Kathleen Weber, MD
Weber, a sports medicine specialist, serves on the board for Girls in the Game. This Chicago-based nonprofit organization for girls ages seven to 17 teaches sports, health, fitness, nutrition, team building and leadership through summer camps and after-school programs.
“The organization introduces kids to things they don’t otherwise have the opportunity to do, such as bowling, softball, rugby and kayaking,” she says. “It really builds self-confidence and self-esteem.”
Besides opening doors for girls, Weber says the volunteer program has also opened her eyes.
“We have kids from all economic and cultural backgrounds. It’s given me better insight into different cultures,” she says. “I wish everybody could have this much fun doing something they feel is worthwhile.”
Help others, help yourself
Research suggests that volunteerism provides a host of benefits for the volunteer, such as increased life expectancy, higher reported levels of well-being, reduced heart rates and blood pressure, and an enhanced immune system. Volunteers also report reduced stress and depression and improved self-esteem — making volunteering a classic win-win situation.
To learn about volunteer opportunities at Rush, call (312) 942-5574 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. For other opportunities in the community, visit www.chicagovolunteer.net.