The value of volunteers

Twenty-two-year-old Sohini Mitra has always had high aspirations. From an early age she knew she wanted to be a doctor, so it was no surprise that Mitra studied biology in university. She held a part-time job to help achieve her goal, but Mitra was eager to add to her practical experience.

“I wanted some real-life practice working in a hospital,” said Mitra. “So almost three years ago I started volunteering at Women’s College Hospital.”

Her first position – in family practice – introduced her to working in the health-care field. From there, Mitra assisted in both health records and at the hospital’s main information desk – confirming her interest in a career as a doctor.

Mitra is just one of more than 150 active volunteers at Women’s College and is among six recently recognized by the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration with an Ontario Volunteer Service Award. The awards honour individuals who strive to make a difference in their communities by donating their time and expertise to one organization.

“Winning the Youth Award from the Ministry is a great honour,” added Mitra. “I encourage other young people to get involved with volunteering. It is a great way to explore career options, gain practical experience and meet new people.”

Today Mitra has a full-time position at Women’s College Hospital researching patient safety procedures during ambulatory surgeries. She just started medical school and is confident her volunteer experience has helped her prepare for a career in health care.

Among the other Women’s College recipients is Judy Wells, a long-time hospital volunteer and winner of the 15 Years of Service Award.

Wells has witnessed over a decade of important milestones in women’s health care. She remembers when Women’s College was recognized as a historical site of national significance in 1999 and when it became the only stand-alone ambulatory hospital in Ontario focused on women’s health in 2006.

“Over the years I’ve worked at the hospital gift shop and assisted women in the breast imaging waiting room. Helping women and their families is the best part of volunteering for me,” said Wells. “I absolutely love donating my time to Women’s College.”

Volunteers can be found in many other areas throughout the hospital. They organize special events and help to preserve Women’s College Hospital history in the Miss Margaret Robins Archives.

“Recognition from the province is a wonderful affirmation of the value volunteers bring to our organization,” said Angela Robertson, director of equity and community engagement. “It places Women’s College volunteers within a larger community of women and men who selflessly give their time and expertise to build strong communities.”

Other Women’s College Hospital 2010 recipients include Aurea Abesamis, Fran Auld, Ede Grindley and Orly Porat who each received a Five-Years-of Service Award.