Life Lessons through Volunteering

January 10, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
The life of a Medical Resident is pretty basic. Treat patients for long hours, and get little sleep.Some of the doctors in the medical residency program at Fresno's UCSF have managed to squeeze in a lot of extra hours doing volunteer work.

Dr. Shahrad Behnam: "Her eyes look good, she does not have any abnormalities."

Dr. Shahrad Behnam spends countless hours at Fresno's Community Medical Center and its surrounding clinics practicing internal medicine.

He's in his last year of the residency program at UCSF. But four years ago his boss Dr. Dominic Dizon decided the residents needed more than just medical training, they needed a lesson in real life, and set up a volunteer project where residents could put in several hours a year at local non-profit organizations like the Poverello House and the Holy Cross Clinic downtown.

Dr. Shahrad Behnam: "When we're at work this is something we have to do it's our duty but when you actually go to a community organization or a homeless shelter and I volunteer my time, it's actually really rewarding for me. I really feel I'm caring and giving back to the community I live in."

Dr. Dominic Dizon: "In the beginning it was hard because in the first year they don't have free time but when they do that first community service project they come back to me and they say "hey Doctor Dizon, this is actually pretty cool."

The volunteer project has given many doctors experience in social work as well as medicine.

Dr. Behnam: "It's significantly different than when they come to your office when they're all dressed up in their best clothes and you go there and actually see what the real issues are it puts things in perspective it's not just the medical aspect."

Because there is a shortage of physicians in the Valley the mission of the Fresno UCSF School of Medicine is to convince its doctors to stick around.

Right now thirty percent of the school's graduates stay in the Valley to practice medicine and many of them have already gotten intimately acquainted with their patients through volunteering.

Dr. Dominic Dizon has been recognized for his volunteer project by the American College of Physicians and even though residents are only asked to volunteer one day or several hours a year some, like Dr. Behnam, spent dozens and hours and several days a year volunteering.


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