This entry was authored by Magnolia Wang, a junior in the College majoring in Biology, with minors in Chemistry and English. As part of the UScholars program, she has received funding for the summer, and she also serves as a UScholars Peer Mentor for underclassmen to provide guidance on research and volunteering opportunities. She plans to eventually attend medical school.
Finding clinical volunteering opportunities during the COVID-19 pandemic was a predicament that I had found myself in this past summer. Yet despite the restrictions in place, I was keen to serve my local community in a healthcare setting. I had read this article on the Career Services website and was particularly drawn to the “My Life, My Story” program at the VA Medical Center. I was enthralled to serve as a “bridge” between veterans and the VA, drawing upon my passion for healthcare, journalism, and writing. I was excited to interview veterans about their life experiences and compose write-ups based on our discussions, which were documented onto patient charts for physicians to develop an appreciation for the veterans’ service.
I first practiced interviewing with my fellow volunteers. This training left me well-equipped for my actual discussions with veterans, as well as enabled me to acquire skills akin to developing good bedside manner. During each interview, I began by asking each veteran about their day and then gradually proceeded to discuss their experiences in serving our country. I aimed to respect each veteran’s comfort zone and found it most helpful to converse on topics they felt most comfortable talking about; I gauged their comfort level by following up with them after each question. There were several instances where the discussion topics became heavier; however, I was prepared to console the veteran and serve as their support system.
I sought to provide a listening ear to the veterans, cultivating a safe space for them to share their experiences in serving our country. Along the way, I enjoyed learning about their honorable achievements as well as recent milestones – among these included impressive birthdays, anniversaries, and new grandchildren! I am extremely grateful for the experience this past summer and hope to continue giving back to the local community by providing my best care and compassion for the veterans. Volunteering for “My Life, My Story” at the VA has indeed been an eye-opening and rewarding experience, and I am eager to continue establishing strong relationships with the veterans.