Asking the simple question, ‘How can I help?’ led Dr. Judith Klein ’10 to an extraordinarily fulfilling volunteer opportunity.
By Camille LeFevre
Dr. Judith Klein ’10 was already quite accomplished when she began looking for ways to volunteer. She earned her MS and PhD in public health and landed a position at biotechnology giant Amgen in Southern California, where she is responsible for project management and data analysis. She also teaches healthcare policy and law at the University of West Los Angeles.
“After graduating, I needed to do something for my community. I wanted to give back,” she says. Klein was specifically interested in a local free clinic where her son had volunteered. Open one day a week, it is supported solely through volunteers and donations. Serving a predominately Hispanic, low-income population, it provides primary healthcare services, social services, and mental health counseling to more than 4,000 patients a year.
“The clinic provides invaluable services,” says Klein. Yet, she wasn’t sure how to leverage her skills in that setting. “I’m in business operations,” she says. “I’m not a nurse or an MD” Influenced by Walden’s mission to effect positive social change, she was moved to reach out to find something that fit.
When she visited the clinic, she learned the staff had the perfect project for her skill set: implementing Medkind, a free, cloud-based system that allowed her to convert existing paper patient records to an electronic system. Today, Klein supervises volunteers and ensures patient information is entered directly into the system. “The information includes test results and prescriptions and, most importantly, it increases the amount of time medical staff can spend with patients.” In short, the database has changed how efficiently the clinic runs. “The database offers a continuity of care and an exemplary level of service to patients,” Klein says enthusiastically.
Working at the clinic with patients and healthcare providers helped Klein put her education into practice in new ways. Here, she offers suggestions to help you replicate her success:
Remember that volunteer opportunities fit all backgrounds. Research organizations to learn how they work and how you could help. Talk to other volunteers. The extra legwork will help you discover an opportunity that matches your specific skills.
Don’t hesitate to make the first contact. “Call organizations whose missions appeal to you,” Klein says. “Tell them about your experiences and expertise. Ask how you can help.” It’s likely, she happily explains, “there will be a perfect spot you can fill. Your help is immensely valuable and the nonprofit will welcome your enthusiasm and expertise.”
Search sites that compile volunteer opportunities. For example, you’ll find an array of choices that match your interests at www.WaldenU.edu/servicenetwork.