From meal trays to med school

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Chatter fills the hallways at St. John’s Rehab Hospital in north Toronto. It’s Saturday afternoon and a group of volunteers gathers around several food carts. Among them is Supreet Sunil, who grabs a tray and heads into a room ready to greet a patient with lunch.

For the past five years, Supreet has spent every Saturday serving lunch to patients at the specialized rehab facility. For some, handing out meal trays might seem like a small role, but for the 20-year-old student, serving patients is what motivates him. Since he was young, he wanted to be a doctor; after volunteering at the hospital, he is certain that he wants to practice medicine.

Now, entering into his fourth year at the University of Toronto, Supreet is preparing to apply to medical school in October. He recently wrote the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).

Through his interactions with patients and staff at St. John’s Rehab, Supreet has learned invaluable lessons that he plans on taking with him to medical school. Building relationships with patients was one of them.

“I realized that it’s not just about delivering medical care. It’s also about making patients feel comfortable. This cannot be undervalued because it helps with their recovery,” he says.

In the last year, Supreet had an opportunity to volunteer in the St. John’s Rehab research department.

“Seeing what I am learning in school and how it’s being applied in real research work was an amazing experience. You see how it all comes together,” he says.

Under the guidance of the Director of Clinical Research and a physiotherapist, Supreet helped collect and organize data for a study that tested the benefits of using Nintendo® Wii™ in patient rehabilitation. The research, which garnered national media coverage, aims to show the benefits of using the game in rehabilitation to improve motor skill redevelopment for those recovering from knee replacements.

After spending some time in the research department and encountering so many different patients, he hopes to one day participate in cancer research or specialize in oncology, or cardiovascular diseases.

But, for now, Supreet anxiously awaits his MCAT scores as he continues to spend his Saturday afternoons serving up hot food.

Supreet is among the more than 250 volunteers at St. John’s Rehab who contribute to over 22,000 hours of service each year. Volunteers like Supreet demonstrate the importance of their role in delivering health care and supporting patients as they recover from life-changing conditions and injuries. With opportunities to work alongside an expert team in research, patient care and administration, volunteering at St. John’s Rehab Hospital can provide invaluable experiences to define a career.

St. John’s Rehab Hospital’s reputation as a caring place for recovery is thanks in part to the dedicated efforts of our volunteers who lend their support so our patients feel comfortable as they embark on their journeys back to life, health and hope.