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Student volunteer makes difference at St. Peter’s hospital

Person of the week

Shereen Dahab, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, was able to combine her passion for volunteering with her interest in biological sciences while spending her Tuesday afternoons at Saint Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick.

While Dahab was a senior in high school, her grandmother suffered a stroke and spent her recovery period at Overlook Medical Center in Summit, N.J. During this period, Dahab said her grandmother’s living conditions at the hospital were disappointing.

“I noticed some things that should have been taken care of with my grandmother, like certain housekeeping things in her room which I was upset about,” she said. “So I wanted to see for myself how it was done, and there is a lot of work that goes into running a hospital.”

Dahab said she always wanted to become a doctor and practice family medicine, but she wanted to volunteer to immediately help the hospital. 

Since she started working at Saint Peter’s in July 2009, Dahab spent 230 hours volunteering, said Stacy Siegelaub, manager of Volunteer Services for the hospital.

Siegelaub said Dahab went beyond what was needed and made an effort to help in any way she could.

Dahab’s schedule conflicted with normal volunteer hours last semester, but to accommodate her hours, Siegelaub gave her a position supervising high school volunteers on weekends.

“She really goes above and beyond the call of duty. She has a go-get-’em attitude,” Siegelaub said.

More than 30 University students volunteer at Saint Peter’s performing a variety of tasks, Siegelaub said.

Volunteers run various errands, like moving medical equipment, delivering newspapers to patients or samples to labs, filing documents in human resources, feeding patients and just spending time with them, she said.

“They’re a key spot we like to fill,” she said. “They’re helping out the staff by helping the patients or visiting with them and the patients love them.”

Dahab said it is the little things volunteers can do to make patients happier.

She recalled one of her encounters with a patient she helped feed who was upset with the hospital slippers she was given. Dahab took it upon herself to buy her patient new, softer slippers.

“There was a deal for two [slippers] for $5, so I brought a pair to her and she was really happy and that made me feel good,” she said.

Joseph Caravaglio, a School of Arts and Sciences junior who has volunteered at Saint Peter’s for six months, said his favorite part of volunteering there is being a patient companion.

“One of my favorite times was as a patient companion. I sat and talked with this 85-year-old woman and she was so happy to [have] anybody and it made her day while I was there,” he said.

Caravaglio said although his time for volunteering is limited, he enjoys every hour he volunteers.

 “Every single person is the nicest person you could ever meet. It’s a good environment to be in — everyone is so happy. If you go in with a bad mood, they will brighten you up,” he said.

Dahab said her Egyptian background and her study of Arabic might lead her to a different career path, such as Doctors Without Borders, a nonprofit organization that sends doctors to serve in disaster or war-torn areas.

“If the opportunity ever comes, I haven’t [been] thinking that far, but I would definitely do that. Why not?” she said.

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