An undergraduate student alumnus of IUPUI, Chad Childers, was given a prestigious community volunteer award on Friday, April 19. He was nominated by volunteer manager Luonna Lancaster of Kindred Hospice and presented the award by Maureen Lindley from Flanner Buchanan. Childers was recognized as Volunteer of the Month for his service to the community. Flanner Buchanan Funeral Centers has been proud to have a volunteer of the month program for all hospices in central Indiana for the last six years. Each month, they receive nominations for the award, and one volunteer is selected for the honor based on their contributions to their hospice organization. The center hosts an annual banquet to honor all volunteers who have been selected and chooses a volunteer of the year who receives an award along with a $1,500 gift card for travel.
Childers said, “I’m convinced the mixture of active volunteering for hospice with discourse among students is a deeply potent, even life-changing, educational experience, particularly for future health care providers.” Childers is a 2017 graduate of the Medical Humanities and Health Studies (MHHS) program and was very engaged in service activities while an undergraduate, receiving the William H. Plater Medallion the same year. After learning about hospice in a sociology course on death and dying during his sophomore year, he began serving as a patient visitor volunteer at Kindred Hospice. In his senior year, he proposed to MHHS faculty the need for a club or group to provide peer support for students pursuing health careers who are involved in this very intense, yet critically educative and important experience. The idea was discussed, and to avoid delays, a 1 credit experiential learning course was developed, which is now in its third semester, enrolling between six and ten (the course cap) students.
Childers shared his thoughts on receiving the award: “I was quite surprised to receive the award, and while I’m happy to be recognized for my hard work, I’m even more pleased the course I helped create is receiving attention.”
In the subsequent gap years, Childers has remained busy, first working in the business side of hospice care and subsequently as a camp counselor for a year in Perth, Scotland, with the Serious Fun Children’s Network serving seriously ill children. Back in the United States, he returned to work as a research assistant with the Central State Hospital History Project in MHHS doing oral history interviews, as well as helping facilitate the Hospice Experience classes.
Childers explained what he hopes to do with this nomination: “We still haven’t figured out how to best care for patients at the end of their lives, and we may never fully comprehend how. But, an open willingness to understand mortality, through service and academically, certainly can help start us in the right direction.”
Childers picked up hospice volunteering again and has been an engaging facilitator in the hospice class, traveling to Peking University in Beijing last fall to present a paper he co-wrote with Professor Emily Beckman on the value of the hospice volunteering experience in preparation for clinical practitioners. He plans to enter medical school within the next year.