Category Archives: Staff profiles and news

Five Question Friday: Sarah Woolever

This week’s edition of Five Question Friday gives a nod to Music Therapy Week. Let’s learn more about Children’s music therapist Sarah Woolever. 

Children's music therapist Sarah Woolever writes, records and performs songs around the Twin Cities.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

1½ years

Why did you decide to go into music therapy?

I did a lot of service projects in high school and was very involved in the choir and marching band (go, drumline!). I knew I loved working with people, and I personally gained so much out of my musical experiences beyond learning how to play an instrument. Performing as a profession wasn’t for me, and I didn’t want to be in education. Music therapy was the perfect balance of both my passions.

Do you have a favorite memory from working at Children’s?

I have so many great memories it’s hard to pick one! Recently, I received a referral from a child life specialist in the hematology/oncology clinic. A 2-year-old girl had been in the clinic for procedures every day for the entire week. She was tired of being there and needed an intervention that would change the environment and her mood, as well as give her an alternate focus during procedures. I brought developmentally stimulating tasks that really motivated her. She smiled, sang, danced (while sitting on her bed) and successfully played new instruments. She was in charge by making choices and leading her mom and myself while playing our instruments or thinking of new words to familiar songs. She focused on the session for over 40 minutes – a really long time for a 2-year-old! It was a normalizing experience where she could be herself. During this time, her nurses were able to do their work without protests and mom was able to relax as well.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

I love spending time with my husband and our 17-month-old, Declan. I love hosting dinner parties as well as practicing yoga.

What’s one interesting fact about you?

I know I just wrote that performing wasn’t for me… but I do write, record and perform songs around the Twin Cities with my bandmate. Writing music is a great outlet for me, and it keeps my musical skills sharp.

Music therapy profile: Kim Arter

Kim Arter memorizes songs quickly.

We continue to celebrate Music Therapy Week by focusing on music therapist Kim Arter.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

2½ years

Why did you decide to go into music therapy?

I started as a nursing major in college, but I was still involved in choir and voice lessons, as music is such a big part of my life. I wanted to find a music profession combined with a helping profession. After discovering music therapy, I took an orientation class and was hooked. I knew it was the right fit for me.

What’s your favorite instrument?

Voice. I love to sing and hear others sing!

How do you spend your time outside of work?

I enjoy spending time with family and friends, especially outside when the weather is nice. I also enjoy baking and catching up on scrapbooking.

What’s one interesting fact about you?

I memorize songs quickly, and they stay in my memory for a long time. I can still sing most songs from my elementary school music programs.

Music therapy profile: Erinn Frees

Erinn Frees has worked at Children's for four years.

We’re celebrating Music Therapy Week, and today the spotlight shines on music therapist Erinn Frees.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

I’ve worked at Children’s for four years, almost to the day!

What is a typical day like for you?

Usually, I start off my day by organizing the referrals we get (typically 40-50 per week) and trying to plan which floors I should go to at what time. Then I set sail with our wonderful new music therapy cart, which is filled with guitars, keyboards, drums, a harp and other percussion instruments. I then spend the rest of the day trying to see as many kids as I can get to, and work with them on physical, cognitive and emotional goals through music.

Do you have a favorite memory from working at Children’s?

I have many favorite memories, but this one sticks out in my head: I was working with a young school-aged boy. We were singing, playing instruments and laughing when he suddenly looked up at me and asked, “So where do you work?” When I explained to him that what we were doing was my job, he said “No, that can’t be right! At work you’re supposed to be, like, really crabby and have lots of papers and stuff!” I’m very grateful to have a job I absolutely love!

How do you spend your time outside of work?

I love spending time with my new husband, trying to learn to golf, spending time with friends and family, playing flute with various concert bands and pit orchestras and trying new restaurants. Oh, and I really like cleaning – it’s such a huge stress release!

What’s one interesting fact about you?

The first “big” concert I ever went to was on my 6th birthday. My dad took me to see Bruce Springsteen, and our tickets were in the very last row. We started chatting with a guy who asked us, “Since it’s her birthday, would you guys like some better seats?” He then led us up to the front row, center stage and we watched the concert from the best seats in the house. Bruce even gave me his guitar pick!

Watch Erinn sing with a patient:

Music Therapy from Children’s of Minnesota on Vimeo.

Five Question Friday: Sandy Cassidy

April 20-26 is Medical Laboratory Professionals Week. At Children’s, we have more than 120 laboratory staff members who work behind the scenes to perform and interpret more than 1 million critical lab tests every year. We’re pleased to introduce one of our lab superstars, Sandy Cassidy, who works at our St. Paul hospital. 

Sandy Cassidy has worked at Children's for 19 years.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

Nineteen years.

Describe your role.

I’m the technical specialist for the transfusion and tissue service. I make sure that the transfusion service runs smoothly by writing procedures and making sure we are compliant with all the standards from the regulatory agency that the blood bank falls under. I help develop training and competency programs for transfusion staff.

What drew you to working in laboratory sciences?

When I was in the 11th grade, we had to write a paper on a career that we were interested in pursuing. I wrote my paper on a medical lab technician. At the time, I had no idea that this was an actual job. While doing the research for my paper, I found the job really interesting so I started looking for schools that had medical lab technician programs.

What do you like best about your job?

I think what I like best about my job is that it is different every day and that there is always something challenging to do. Working with children is rewarding.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I like to spend time with my husband and two boys. My boys are busy with baseball in the spring, which keeps me busy running them back and forth between practices and games. When I’m not running my boys around, I’m busy crocheting and knitting for craft fairs that my sister-in-law and I attend all year long.

The volunteer under Twinkle: Vince Opheim

Vince Opheim has been volunteering at Children's for six years.

Have you ever seen Twinkle, the mascot of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, and wondered who is inside that smiling blue star? Chances are it’s Vince Opheim, who has volunteered as Twinkle for nearly six years. He describes his volunteer time as “some of the most-fun experiences I’ve ever had.”

Opheim is the volunteer who often plays Twinkle, the Children's mascot.

Why play Twinkle? Well, the answer was quite simple, Vince said.

“It is another way to not just make kids smile, but parents, too! Twinkle is my version of Superman… Well, “Superstar.” By day I am Vince, a full-time employee of AT&T and aspiring RN, but when it is time for an event … I transform into Twinkle, the big blue star that brings smiles and laughter. Where else can you dance in polka-dot pants, be asked to come to school for show and tell, or rock out with inflatable guitars?”

The true question is where doesn’t Vince volunteer? In addition to volunteering as Twinkle at special events, Vince volunteers every Monday evening on the inpatient units, providing laughs and comfort through the healing powers of play. He also volunteers his time at events such as Starry Night and the annual Children’s Star Gala and monthly at the Diabetes Support Group. Vince has created two fundraisers benefiting Children’s: a Zumba class (where Twinkle showed off some moves!) and his “Pasta for Peds” event: a spaghetti dinner, silent auction and karaoke contest.

What is his motivation for giving so much of his time to Children’s?

“You get the feeling that you are meant for certain things. I know I was meant to volunteer at Children’s,” Vince said. “A nurse once asked me this same question, ‘why volunteer?’ I pointed to the child’s room that I had just left and told her, ‘See the smile on that sleeping baby? That is why I volunteer.’ Words cannot explain the incredibly positive feelings I receive when I leave a child’s room. Whether I am painting fingernails, watching Elmo, telling jokes, or simply holding a hand, every moment is memorable and worthwhile. These incredible kids have taught me so much, and I am thankful that I am able to spread some cheer during their stay every week. I always leave with a huge smile on my face.”

We are thankful for Vince and all of our volunteers who help to make Children’s a very special place for families. Happy National Volunteer Recognition Week!

Five Question Friday: Dr. Bruce Bostrom

Bruce Bostrom, MD, his sons, John (left) and Arne (right); and Kris Ann Schultz, MD, participate in St. Baldrick's Day in 2013.

In this week’s Five Question Friday, we catch up with Bruce Bostrom, MD, as he talks about his involvement with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation and his love for Scandinavian folk dancing.

Children’s is hosting its annual St. Baldrick’s head-shaving event April 24 to raise money for childhood cancer research. Sign up to shave, donate or volunteer on the Children’s event page.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

I have worked at Children’s since 1988. Initially, I was on part-time “loan” from the University of Minnesota to help the cancer and blood disorders program when Dr. Larry Singher was diagnosed with cancer. Drs. Jack Cich and Margaret Heisel-Kurth had previously come to the program from Park Nicollet as well. I became a full-time Children’s employee in 1992.

What are some of the conditions you treat?

In the early days, I treated all blood disorders and cancers in children and young adults. More recently I have specialized in leukemia, lymphoma and respiratory papillomatosis.

What inspired you to get involved with St. Baldrick’s? Tell us about your head-shaving team.

My youngest son, Arne, organized a shaving event for his fraternity at the University of Colorado in 2007. In 2009, my son, John, and I attended the event and shaved with him. We have now moved our team, “The Baldstroms,” aka “The Bald Vikings,” to the event at Children’s. One of my favorite “shaving” memories was in Boulder in 2009 when my sons and I climbed to the top of the Flatirons after shaving. I also like to say that the best thing about having my head shaved – after supporting childhood cancer research, of course – is the money I save on haircuts.

What do you love most about your job?

I work with a fantastic team of people who all are focused on giving the best care to patients with very serious and sometimes-fatal diseases. I also enjoy the long-standing relationships that form with patients and families.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

I like to stay active, which is a great stress reliever. My favorite activity is Nordic (cross-country) skiing. I have skied the American Birkebeiner 30 times. My goal is to do the Norwegian version along with the Swedish Vasaloppet someday. My wife, Char, is a very accomplished Scandinavian folk fiddler, and we are members of Swedish, Norwegian and Danish folk-dance groups. As a native Minnesotan, I also enjoy Twins games and going up to the cabin.

Volunteer shout-out: Kiry Koy

Volunteer Kiry Koy plans to become a doctor.

The celebration of our volunteers continues this week with a profile of Kiry Koy.

Kiry is a freshman at the University of Minnesota, studying neuroscience. He volunteers at Children’s – St. Paul on the inpatient units and has gained more than 60 hours of service since he started volunteering in October 2013. This summer, he plans to broaden his skill set by volunteering in a new area: as a peri-operative escort in our surgery department. His favorite part about volunteering is playing with kids in the unit playroom. Plans for the future? Well, to become a doctor, of course.

Thank you, Kiry, and all of our volunteers for all you do to assist staff and brighten the lives of patients and families.

Volunteer shout-out: Jackie Cameron

Jackie Cameron has volunteered for six years and is a Children’s employee who works as a lead medical scribe in Health Information Management.

Happy National Volunteer Recognition Week! Meet Jackie Cameron, a volunteer for six years and a Children’s employee who works as a lead medical scribe in Health Information Management (HIM).

Tell us about your volunteer journey and how it led to a career at Children’s.

I started volunteering at Children’s during my sophomore year in college. This was a memorable time in my life as I was on my own for the first time. Having left a small town in Wisconsin for the Twin Cities, I felt like a little fish in the big ocean. Children’s welcomed me with open arms and allowed me to establish connections and observe medicine in an urban setting for the first time. With all of the opportunities Children’s has provided me, it is extremely rewarding to continue to give back to the place I work through volunteering.

What do you love most about volunteering?

My time spent rocking babies and playing with children reminds me of what is truly important, and what all of our hard work as employees of Children’s is really for. Volunteering has a way of keeping me humble and grounded. It is an incredibly special feeling to be able to make a child forget that they are sick and in the hospital.

Please join us in thanking Jackie and all of our amazing volunteers this week!

Volunteer shout-out: Eric Gustafson

Eric Gustafson has been volunteering at Children’s for almost five years.

As part of National Volunteer Recognition Week, we’re profiling some of our Red-Vested Rockstars! Today, meet Eric Gustafson, who has been volunteering at Children’s for almost five years. He’s a laid-back guy with a great sense of humor. Eric often trains-in new volunteers, and serves as our orientation assistant at new-volunteer orientations. Learn more about Eric and why he gives his time to Children’s.

What is your favorite part about volunteering?

It has all been good; the staff and other volunteers have been exceptional. But if I had to boil it down, I would say being with the kids and hopefully helping.

What is a standout memory you have from your volunteer time?

I do remember an incident in the NICU where a nurse asked if I could hold a little boy so she could go to lunch. I was handed the kid and he immediately fell asleep. When the nurse came back she took him, and as I took just a couple of steps he began to cry, so I headed back. The nurse put him in my arms, and again, he fell asleep right away. We thought we were in the clear, so the nurse took over, and I headed out. Again, and after a few steps, he began to cry again! This repeated itself one more time before I ended my shift and had to let him stay with the nurse, still crying.

What advice would you give to a new volunteer?

Pay attention while you are training, use common sense and get comfortable going into rooms without being asked to. What I tell all the people I have trained is that this is not rocket science, but we cover a lot of material and, like many new scenarios, the first time you are on your own and are asked to do things on your own can cause some distress.

Besides volunteering, what is something you love to do?

Travel, spend time with my wife, hunt, drive.

Thank you, Eric, and all of our volunteers for all you do!

Five Question Friday: Dex Tuttle

We love kids here at Children’s, but we’d rather see them safe at home. Dex Tuttle, our injury prevention program coordinator, tells us more about his role and gives some tips on how to prevent common household injuries in this week’s Five Question Friday.

Dex Tuttle has been the injury prevention program coordinator at Children's since August 2013.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

I started in August of 2013.

Describe your role.

As injury prevention program coordinator, my job is to keep kids out of the emergency room. I plan events and prepare resources in partnership with hospital and community organizations to educate children and families about common types of injury and give them tips on what they can do to stay safe.

What do you love most about your job?

On any given day, I can be in a workshop creating a new display or activity, out in the metro area talking to community members, or at my desk planning, creating and organizing for the future. I love the flexibility and unpredictability of the job, but the most rewarding part of my work is when people who stop by and chat with me have that “a-ha” moment: when I know that the message sunk in and changed behavior. In addition, as a father of an 18-month-old, injury prevention is always on my mind in a very real way. It is great making connections with families where the conversation starts with the commonality of caring for a curious and mobile child and progresses to sharing some advice that can help them keep their own kids safe.

We’re anxiously waiting for warmer weather so we can get outside. What are some simple tips that you give parents to keep their kids safe around their neighborhoods?

A tricky part of parenting is encouraging your kids to learn through exploration and curiosity while maintaining safe behaviors. The tip sheet on this topic is about three miles long, but here is some general advice:

  • If they’re on wheels, make sure they wear a proper-fitting helmet and pads.
  • The same goes for any activity or sport; make sure their equipment is right for their size.
  • Role-play emergency scenarios as a family – severe weather, stranger danger, fire escape, etc.
  • When traveling by vehicle, ensure your child’s car seat or seat belt fits right and is installed/worn properly. ALWAYS wear a seat belt (role model good behavior) and keep kids in a proper car seat or booster until they’re 4-foot-9 or taller to ensure their seat belt fits right.
  • STAY HYDRATED. With the winter we’ve had, it’s hard to think about the weather being warm enough to be dangerous, but developing good habits around drinking plenty of water now will help create safe behavior in the future. Be sure kids understand the importance of sunscreen, too.

For more tips, visit Children’s Making Safe Simple page, but the best advice I can give as a father and educator is to involve your kids in decisions and planning for safety. Encouraging them to provide their input and incorporating their suggestions into your plan and actions helps solidify safe behavior into the future.

What’s your favorite meal?

PIZZA. If my wife would let me, I could eat pizza for every meal, every day … with a few regular breaks for hot wings, anyway.