Category Archives: Where Are They Now?

Where Are They Now?: Volunteer Alum Mike Joannides Leads Pre-Med Club in UK!

Editor’s Note:  Mike Joannides volunteered at Children’s from 2008-2010, and is currently in medical school at St. George’s University in Grenada.  Mike is enrolled in the Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program (KBTGSP), which allows students to spend their medical school years studying in two different locations:  Newcastle, UK, and Grenada, a beautiful island in the Caribbean.  You can learn more about the KBTGSP here, and more about Mike in an earlier blog post!

Huge kudos to volunteer alum Mike Joannides, currently serving as chair of the KBTGSP Paediatrics Club at St. George’s!  Mike was featured in St. George’s medical gazette this week for his work with the club, specifically in presenting a check for £676 ($1061 in U.S. dollars!) to the North of England Children’s Cancer Research Foundation, the body that supports childhood cancer research in Newcastle.  This sum was raised through the efforts of the Paediatrics Club and Global Scholars Medical Society.

Here is a link to the full article.  Thanks, Mike, for keeping us posted on your life, and for continuing to support children’s cancer research outside of Children’s Hospital!

Mike (R) presents the club's donation to Professor Josef Vermoor.

Where Are They Now?: Volunteer-to-Employee “Hall of Fame!”

Do you recognize any of these folks? All of these individuals are current Children’s employees who started off as volunteers!   Currently, there are nearly thirty individuals who gave their time to either the Minneapolis or St. Paul hospitals as volunteers, and over the years, there have been countless others.   The next time you see any of these employees in the hall, say hello and ask them about their volunteer experience!



Pictured in Album 1 (listed in order of appearance within full album):
Carin Hanson, Child Life
Anna Wells, Emergency Department
Bethany Bauer, 4th Floor
Charles Lillicrap, Surgery
Abbie Dalbec, 6th Floor
Amy Heairet, NICU
Album 2:
Emily Mueller, Pharmacy
Ernie Krause, Research & Sponsored Programs
Chelsea Gliddon, Infection Prevention & Control
Jenna Barke, Volunteer Services
Emily Gustafson, Float Team
Jackie Cameron, Health Information Management
Jennifer Johnson, Foundation
Album 3:
Pamela Carranza, Developmental Rehabilitation
Lisa Pham, Child Life
Rhea Holm, Children’s Clinic
Tedi Rappaport, Child Life
Molly Lamon, Volunteer Services
Simon Lueth, Hematology/Oncology Clinic

“Fostering Awesomeness”: Justin Lockrem, Future MD

Justin Lockrem

Editor’s Note:  Do you recognize this face?  If you’re a pre-med student who’s taken a Kaplan MCAT course in the Twin Cities area, you might recognize Justin Lockrem as a highly-regarded Kaplan instructor.  Justin volunteered with us at Children’s from August 2010-March 2011, and is currently in his first year of medical school at the University of Michigan.  The following is the first of (we hope!) many updates that he will be sending us over the course of his journey to become an MD.  Thank you, Justin, and best of luck with your first year!

“Look to your left, then look to your right; half of you will not be here at med school graduation four years from now.” – Med School Deans, circa 1980s

Long gone are the days where med school itself leaves half its students stumbling towards other careers.  With attrition rates under 3% nationally,  emphasis is now placed on gaining admission to medical schools (42,742 applicants for 18,665 US MD spots –, 2010).  Stresses on MCAT scores and GPAs have never been higher, and the emphasis on diversity in age, sex, background, experiences, and motivations are driving forces for admissions.  But once you’re in the door, it’s amazing to find the family environment and support services that await your every move.  Everyone is in this together;  we succeed as an entire group.

Sunday, July 31st was the White Coat Ceremony, where they handed us the official doctor uniform & stethoscope, and were met with a standing ovation recognizing our accomplishments thus far.  As we took our seats, the dean addressed us all and said,  “There are some of the highest GPAs, MCAT scores, research accolades, international health experiences, and IQs in this room right now.  And as of this moment, they officially mean absolutely nothing.”  It’s true; we’re all starting back from scratch, ready to embark on the journey of our lifetime. What we’ve done before got us here, but what we do now is all that matters.

I came to the University of Michigan for the opportunity to experience great things.  Even with these lofty expectations, I have been absolutely blown away by the trust, respect and freedom that distinguishes medical school from the rest of the world.  As soon as we were given our white coats and a gigantic syllabus, we were essentially on our own.  Lectures are optional, quizzes are to be taken on your own, tests are pass/fail, and objectives need to be reached however you get there. Talk about daunting – but this is the real world of medicine.  No more hand holding, just goals and results, with an equal emphasis on how you talk to patients as well as what you’re able to tell them. They are instilling in us the confidence and responsibility of patient care, trained to be ready to hold patients’ lives in our hands for the rest of our lives. I’m glad to be surrounded by some of the most brilliant, talented, and amazing people I’ve ever met. We will be pushed, we will be tired, there will be highs and lows, great accomplishment and great failure. But collectively, we will take the next step on our pathways to medicine, embarking on great careers of lifelong learning.  Or, as I like to say, we collectively are fostering awesomeness. 

Looking forward to the next 4 years.

Justin Lockrem, M1 – University of Michigan

Where Are They Now?: PA Student Chelsea Zamora

Chelsea Zamora, pictured with her adorable nephew!

“I can remember all the way back to first grade, when I brought a mini first-aid kit to class for career day; my interest in the medical field has been instilled in me from the start.  I have spent 8 years volunteering with different clinics, hospitals, and nonprofit organizations.  Whether in geriatrics, pediatrics, pathology labs, specialty units, or serving food at shelters, these experiences have led me to where I am now. 

I must say that one of my favorite experiences was when I spent one January term as a full-time volunteer at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.  My favorite things that I did during this month included:  visiting with children in the units, putting together “comfort kits” for kids with cancer, shadowing a physician assistant, and being surrounded by wonderful people who truly care about the livelihood of others.  My shadowing experience involved learning the day-to-day tasks of a PA while visiting with patients, working with staff from other specialties (OT/PT), and sitting in on meetings.  I couldn’t be more grateful for the variety of opportunities; they allowed me to gain direct patient contact experience, form lasting relationships, and showed me how my presence positively impacted the life of someone else.

Ultimately, my shadow experience provided me with direction for my future goals. After graduating from Gustavus Adolphus College in May 2010 with a B.A. in Biology and Neuroscience, I decided that I wanted to pursue my master’s degree in Physician Assistant Studies. During this last year, I’ve been busy with applications and gaining clinical experience by working at a group home. In just two short weeks, I will be starting classes in the Physician Assistant graduate program at UW-Madison! I am eager to embrace the challenging future ahead of me, and will always remember and be thankful to those who helped me get to where I am now.”

Thank you, Chelsea, for taking the time to share your experiences…and best of luck with your PA career!

Where Are They Now?: Math Teacher/Future Physician Anya Dmytrenko

Anya (in pink shirt & glasses) and her students

“My experience at Children’s Hospital instilled in me a love for working with kids and their families. The patients at Children’s taught me resilience, their families taught me unconditional love, and the staff taught me the impact that a caring group of passionate individuals can make on a child’s life. Above all, volunteering at Children’s cultivated in me an enduring love for the broader community in which this hospital stands.

Today, I am a corps member with Teach For America, a national nonprofit organization that trains and sends recent college graduates to work in low-income communities in an effort to close the nation’s achievement gap. I teach high school math in a neighborhood very close to Children’s, serving students ages 17 to 21. At the beginning of the year, several of my students could not perform operations such as addition and subtraction. Today, they are solving and graphing equations. I love my students, am very proud of them, and feel truly lucky to have such a rewarding job.

I can honestly say that each interaction I had at Children’s – be it with a patient, a fellow volunteer, a nurse, or a family member – strengthened my core values and shaped me into the person that I am today. I Teach For America because our kids are our stars and our future. To me, it only makes sense to invest in them and in their well-being. Although I ultimately aspire to attend medical school, I hope to come right back to Children’s to be part of the collective effort to provide excellent medical care for all members of this amazing, vibrant community.”

Thank you, Anya, for teaching us about the difference that caring individuals like you can make in kids’ lives!  Your students are fortunate to have you, as will your future patients someday!

Where Are They Now?: Child Life Specialist Amy VerBurg

“My name is Amy VerBurg, and I am from River Falls, WI.  During my junior year of college at UW-Eau Claire (after switching my major several times), I heard of a profession called Child Life. Knowing that I was drawn to the healthcare field and loved working with children, I decided to explore what Child Life was all about. Not knowing where to start, I began exploring volunteer options and stumbled across an amazing opportunity with Children’s Hospitals & Clinics of Minnesota, the Child Life Volunteer Exposure Experience! Volunteering at Children’s not only provided me with the amazing experience of working with children in hospitals, but it also gave me the opportunity to explore a potential career! After graduating, I was accepted for a Child Life Internship at the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital. Shortly after completing my internship, I passed the Child Life certification exam and was hired as a Child Life Specialist in the Emergency Department at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. I spent a little over a year at Mayo and just recently accepted a new position back at the U of MN Amplatz Children’s Hospital working with kids going through bone marrow transplants. I love my career as a Child Life Specialist and am so thankful to Children’s Hospitals and Clinics for giving me the experience I needed to get where I am today!”

Amy VerBurg Amy VerBurg, CCLS

Thank you, Amy, for sharing your time & enthusiasm with us!  We’re so proud of your journey into the Child Life field!

Where Are They Now?: Andrea Otteson, RN

Andrea OttesonAndrea Otteson, RN

Andrea Otteson started volunteering at Children’s-St. Paul in the fall of 2008 while in the process of applying to nursing school. Combining an undergraduate degree in art with Children’s vast supplies of creative materials, Andrea was well-equipped to sit with crafty kids for hours at a time in the playrooms and diabetes education center. Now a graduate from the U of M’s Master of Nursing program, Andrea currently works as a nurse for the adult population at Regions Hospital. Andrea is grateful for the wonderful experiences that she had while volunteering at Children’s!

Thank you, Andrea, for your continued support of Children’s!  Happy Volunteer Week!

Where Are They Now?: Child Life Specialist Amanda Meyer

“I volunteered at Children’s of Minnesota in 2009. I got my start in Child Life by participating in the Child Life Volunteer Exposure Experience. This program was so valuable to my education and preparation for my future as a Child Life Specialist.

After graduating from University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in May 2009 with a Bachelors of Science degree in Psychology, I spent the summer preparing for my Child Life Internship for fall 2009 at Saint Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Marshfield, WI. After completing my internship I started applying for jobs across the country. After many interviews, I finally accepted a job at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, TN ( It was hard to leave my friends and family, but I was excited to have my first “real” job. My starting position was as the evening Child Life Specialist, covering the whole hospital (225 beds, including the intensive care areas). My job was to attend to any needs that arose after the daytime specialists left:  this included providing procedural support/distraction, preparation, and family support; providing sibling visits, supervising special events, and conducting pre-surgery tours. In June 2010, I sat for the Child Life certification exam and passed. After 8 months of working the evening position, I was offered a position working in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (60 beds), which is where I am today! I provide family support, sibling visits, preparation, developmental stimulation, and memory building for all the newborns at Le Bonheur. I am so lucky to be working at such an amazing hospital, and I know that my volunteering experience helped me get here.”

-Amanda Meyer, BS, CCLS

P.S.  Amanda is more than willing to chat with any potential child life specialists/students with child life interest!  You can e-mail her at [email protected].

Amanda MeyerAmanda Meyer, “down South” at her new home in Memphis!

Thank you, Amanda, for your continued support of Children’s Hospital!

Where Are They Now?: Occupational Therapy Student Alex Neville

“Hi! My name is Alex Neville and I am in graduate school at Creighton University, working towards my doctorate in occupational therapy. I participated in the Child Life Exposure Experience in January 2008 and fell in love with Children’s Hospital, so I came back that summer and volunteered again! During my time at Children’s, I discovered a lot about myself and my love for working in a hospital setting. When I began my internship, I had no idea what occupational therapy was and how therapists worked to help patients get back to doing daily things (occupations) that many of us take for granted. From getting dressed to even playing, occupational therapists help patients re-learn how to do these seemingly simple things or learn to do tasks in new ways. After sitting in on one therapy session, I knew that this was the career path that I wanted to pursue. I am over halfway done with my program now, and am looking forward to graduation in December 2012. Omaha is great, but I definitely would like to get back to the Twin Cities after graduation to work in one of the fantastic hospitals in the area. Who knows…maybe Children’s will need another OT then!”

Alex Neville & brother In Alex’s own words:  “This is a picture of my younger brother David and I at my white coat ceremony.  Goofing around, he thought that he could become an OT just by wearing my all things in life, I guess career choices (and coats!) aren’t ‘one size fits all!'”

Thank you, Alex, for your continued support of our volunteer program!  We’re so proud of you, and can’t wait to cheer on your future success as an OT!

Where Are They Now?: Clinic Assistant & PA Student Simon Lueth

Simon LuethSimon Lueth 

“Hi, my name is Simon. For the past 2 years, I have been working as a Clinic Assistant in the Hematology & Oncology Clinic at Children’s. Prior to this, I went to school at the University of Minnesota to pursue a degree in Biology, Society, and the Environment. While working on my degree, I was lucky enough to have the time to volunteer at Children’s.

The positive interactions I had with patients and staff as a volunteer, combined with my interest in the healthcare field, led me to pursue a career as a Physician Assistant. I recently found out that I was accepted to a PA program and will be starting my new journey in the next couple of months. I am excited at the prospect of becoming a PA and, because of my experiences at Children’s, know that I want to work in the pediatric field once I am done with my education.”

Thank you, Simon, for all that you’ve done for Children’s–as a volunteer AND an employee!  We wish you the best in PA school this fall!