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Week of May 2, 2011

U-M Health System volunteers serve growing system

The U-M Health System’s growth has been accompanied by increasing volunteer support, and administrators want to make sure the trend continues.

“The opening of the new C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital in 2011 means that we will need to increase the number of volunteers to fill roles specifically created to support the functions within the new hospital,” says Alfreda Rooks, director, UMHS Volunteer Services.

In coming months, Volunteer Services will be contacting a range of community groups as part of an overall strategy to boost volunteer participation in time for the opening of the new hospitals.

In 2009, 2,116 volunteers served at the medical school, health centers and hospitals. They donated 109,108 hours at a value of $2,274,901, according to the Independent Center leadership forum. “We average more than 1,600 volunteers at any given time,” Rooks says.

Volunteers work in gift shops, read to children, provide way-finding and guest assistance, clerical support, and database and research assistance. They also work with the Silver Club (Alzheimer’s day program), Housing Bureau for Seniors, Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels, Turner Senior Resource Center, Women’s Health Resource Center, FRIENDS Depression Education Resource Center, the Cancer Center’s Patient Education Resource Center and more.

Scott Dawsey is a U-M student majoring in cellular and molecular biology and a volunteer in the Post Anesthesia Care Unit at University Hospital, where he performs a range of duties. The hospital this year will recognize his commitment and dedication by presenting him with a 24-month service award. Photo by Karen Shill.

“My volunteer experience has taught me that good communication is essential,” says U-M biotechnology major Elizabeth Ashley Caliman, a junior who volunteers at University Hospital as a way-finder.

“Lost patients are often frustrated or embarrassed, and a kind face is enough to calm them down. Patients and visitors appreciate the fact that someone cares enough to take them (to their destination) instead of just giving them directions,” she says.

Linda Phillips, an Ann Arbor mother of two college students and homemaker, volunteers by greeting patients at the main information desk of University Hospital. “At the end of the day, I know that I have had a positive impact on people, but they have no idea how they have positively impacted my life as well,” she says. “I am constantly amazed at what some people are going through and it really makes me appreciate what I have and inspires me to give even more.”

Rooks says volunteers range in age and experience from high school students interested in a career in health care or doing community service work to prepare for college, to college students who need volunteer experience for graduate and medical school applications, and community members, including senior citizens, interested in giving back.

“Some volunteer to explore health care as a second career. We also have volunteers who are University of Michigan Health System and main campus employees who donate their time volunteering in roles outside of their usual workplace role,” Rooks says.

David Lieber of Bloomfield Hills says that while he previously volunteered in various settings, he chose at age 46 to volunteer three hours each Friday in the University Hospital Post Anesthesia Care Unit. The move coincided with his decision to change careers from architecture to nursing.

“Being that nursing was such a different environment, I wanted to make sure that I was comfortable with that choice,” he says. “The most valuable part of the experience is that I am becoming comfortable assisting the patients. I get thank-yous from the patients as they leave the PACU and that makes me feel like what I do there really matters. This has been a great experience for me, especially since I have now been accepted into U of M’s nursing school for this fall.”

Rooks says volunteers, who typically work two-to-four hours weekly, help support patients and their families, augment the work of faculty and staff, and help provide community programs and services. “Having this wealth of talent to draw on for our future workforce is invaluable and supports the health system’s larger mission. We have an opportunity to inspire learning, mentor research aspirations and nurture the seeds of compassion for others,” she says.

Interviews for community members and college students wishing to volunteer in the spring begin May 9.

Teens interested in volunteering during the summer (June through August) should attend one of the Teen Information Sessions June 4 or June 11. For more information on volunteering at UMHS go to



Brigitte Maassen, international visitor coordinator, International Center, on her youth, and the influence of international culture: “I grew up in a family that was so inclusive of people of all different religions, races and backgrounds … so I’m very grateful.”


Gifts of Art presents “The Tie that Binds: Book Arts Group Show,” featuring School of Art & Design student works through June 13 in the Taubman Health Center South Lobby, Floor 1.

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