Employees Volunteer in the Community to Improve Children’s Health

Published on in Community Benefit Report

Employee Volunteers When CHOP employees see children facing health and wellness challenges in the community, our reaction is to figure out how we can help. Does a group need information or training? We share our expertise. Do students need a mentor or does a camp need medically trained counselors? Employees make the time. Are neighbors or community facilities in need of supplies or a hands-on volunteer? We’ll organize a collection or participate, sometimes for months or even years.

Every week, employees — individually and in groups — volunteer to step outside their workplaces at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, using their healthcare knowledge in a variety of ways with a shared goal: improving the lives of children and families.

Examples abound and span the spectrum. We share just a few of the many stories.

Healthcare Careers: Here We Come!

Spark Philadelphia

Serving as mentors for Spark Philadelphia, a nonprofit mentoring program for middle school students, was as exciting for the CHOP employees who volunteered as it was for the participating students.

“I think it is a great idea to help out kids from our area and encourage them that the sky is the limit,” says Tom Reilly, Assistant Manager, Environmental and Linen Services, and one of the mentors. “The kids learned that with a dream, hard work and determination, anything is possible.”

Students Bashear and Saleemah, eighth graders from John Barry Promise Academy in West Philadelphia, came to CHOP two hours a week for 10 weeks. Bashear was mentored by Reilly and Robert Nieves, Business Manager, Environmental and Linen Services. Saleemah’s mentor was Christine Tillson, Procurement Operations Manager, Supply Chain.

Bashear and Saleemah toured CHOP, meeting people across the institution. Each week, they worked on different skills such as goal setting, networking and time management. “First, we would discuss what the skill meant to them,” Nieves says. “After a brief explanation, we’d give examples of how we could implement that skill.”

“My main objective was to show Saleemah that there were multiple career paths in healthcare for her to explore,” Tillson says.

All students in the Spark program worked on a career discovery project, which they presented to their families and teachers.

“Bashear comes from a tough area of the city, where not much may be expected of him as far as his future is concerned. We were able to help him see that he can do better than those before him,” Nieves says. “I felt like I was able to affect his life in a positive manner by showing him that there are opportunities for him. I explained that he could do whatever he wanted to do if he worked hard enough for it.”

Children’s Hospital promotes several programs with a similar theme: Give high-school and college students a taste of a career in healthcare, scientific research or in other CHOP areas as a way to ensure a talented and dedicated workforce in the future.

Penn Wood High School

When Jeff Miller, a research informatics supervisor in CHOP’s Department of Biomedical and Health Informatics, learned that Penn Wood High School in Lansdowne didn’t offer computer programming courses, he gathered six of his colleagues and arranged an after-school introduction at the school, and the volunteers also talked about their career paths to CHOP.

“It was good to get the students excited about programming, but to me, it was just as important to expose them to the different kinds of jobs at CHOP,” Miller says.

Lunch with a CHOP Nursing Professional

Kristina Cobey of Human Resources organizes a couple “Lunch with a CHOP Nursing Professional” days each year. Students with an interest in nursing come to the Main Campus and connect one-on-one with nurses, asking questions and gaining insight into what their jobs truly entail.

“We had many requests to shadow a nurse for a day, and for safety reasons we can’t accommodate those requests,” Cobey says. “This gives students the opportunity to speak with a RN, see an area of the Hospital, and learn about the many opportunities nursing provides.”

High school students can also learn about CHOP through the University City District’s Summer Intern Program and the Summer Explorer Program in the Hospital’s Volunteer Department.

Research options

  • In a partnership with the School District of Philadelphia and the Franklin Institute, the CHOP Research Institute joined the Science Leadership Academy (SLA), an alliance to provide real-world research experience to high school students. SLA is a model for diversity both in its curriculum and student population, where 49 percent of students are African American and 8 percent are Hispanic. SLA students work in CHOP Research Institute labs for several hours each week during the school year under the guidance of a faculty mentor. They set goals that include learning and practicing laboratory safety, conducting practical research, understanding the value of team science, and giving back to the medical and local community. Twelve students have participated in the program.
  • Various CHOP departments offer Cristo Rey High School students in grades 9 through 12 internships as a required part of their education. Students assigned to the Research Institute worked five days a month in the laboratory of neurology researcher Adam Resnick, PhD, studying the molecular basis of pediatric brain tumors.
  • During the summer of 2015, the CHOP Office of Responsible Research Training piloted a research internship for two students from the Dr. Charles Brimm School for the Medical Arts, a public magnet high school in Camden, NJ, that introduces health-related hands-on experience. CHOP surgeon Edward Doolin, MD, a champion and supporter of Brimm for decades, served as the faculty sponsor of the partnership. Students were assigned a CHOP mentor who guided their research experiences and also showed them a variety of careers in academic research.
  • The Division of Neurology offers two competitive, paid internships for high school students each summer and interns participate in a basic research project.
  • The CHOP Research Institute Summer Scholars Program (CRISSP) provides college students with theoretical knowledge, practical training in academic research, and critical exposure to pediatric-focused career trajectories under the direct mentorship of CHOP faculty. Selected students train full time for 10 weeks. Researchers and their teams volunteer to teach research techniques and supervise a student research project. Interns also attend seminars and events to promote their exposure to a variety of biomedical research. Weekly lunches with faculty, lectures, and clinic and operating room tours rounded out the experience.