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Medical student reflects on his time as a volunteer

Date: Monday, December 16, 2019

Kenten KingsburyFor first-year medical student Kenten Kingsbury, one day in high school sparked an interest that’s fueled him ever since.

“I remember my anatomy teacher brought in a deer to class that one of her colleagues hit that morning with their car,” Kingsbury says. “She brought the deer in, and we dissected it on the back lawn of our school.”

From then on, Kingsbury’s interest in anatomy and physiology transported him from his hometown of Lawton, Iowa, to the office of Volunteer Services for University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, and, eventually, to the Carver College of Medicine.

Having volunteered in the Surgical and Neurosciences Intensive Care Unit (SNICU), Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), Oculoplastics Clinic, and the Student Leader Board—an organization that oversees and manages college volunteers—as an undergraduate student, Kingsbury’s time as a volunteer has cultivated his interest in medicine, ultimately motivating him to enroll in medical school.

“Volunteering was the first time I’d really been in a hospital setting,” he says. “Without the opportunity to volunteer, I’m not sure how else I would’ve gotten that exposure.”

Already having an interest in the scientific aspect of medicine, Kingsbury emphasized how his time in the SNICU—his first volunteer experience—opened his eyes to the interpersonal side of medicine.

“Talking with patients and their families showed me a more humane and personal aspect of medicine that I wanted to explore, and that was really my goal in coming here,” he says.

While volunteering in the SNICU may have been Kingsbury’s introduction, it was in the NICU that Kingsbury spent the bulk of his time as a volunteer.

Starting in summer 2016, between his freshman and sophomore years, until his graduation, Kingsbury served as a developmental care volunteer in the NICU. He held and comforted infants, while also entertaining them with books, music, and toys.

“Watching the NICU babies grow, develop, and eventually leave was extremely meaningful and somewhat bittersweet,” Kingsbury says. “Obviously, you don’t want them to be there for an extended period of time but seeing them survive and eventually thrive was really special.”

Kingsbury says the flexibility of the Volunteer Services program allowed him to customize an experience that fit his interests, experience, and schedule.

“I really did what I wanted to do with the volunteer program. I put in extra time because I wanted to,” he says. “Volunteering was a mainstay, and I just never stopped enjoying it.”

For Kingsbury, volunteering was not only an enjoyable way to make a difference; it was the impetus that has led to his goal of becoming a doctor.

“I loved talking with patients, working with the staff, and just being able to have an impact on people’s lives,” he says. “That experience of being in a clinical setting with doctors, nurses, and all the other staff really confirmed that medicine is what I wanted to pursue.”