(July 22, 2011)
In 2008, Taylor Millar had heart surgery. He was treated so well by cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Ted Koutlas and the rest of the physicians at the East Carolina Heart Institute at East Carolina University, he wanted to return the favor.
"I just felt like someone had to do something for them," he said. "I wanted to give back to the medical profession."
He's getting that chance through the new volunteer program of ECU Physicians, the group medical practice of the Brody School of Medicine at ECU.
Millar, a retired Greenville businessman, has been volunteering since the program began June 6. Millar works in the heart institute along with 13 other volunteers.
Martha Dartt, director of nursing services for ECU Physicians, serves as the volunteer coordinator. Sydney Cunningham, the wife of Dr. Paul Cunningham, dean and the senior associate vice chancellor for medical affairs at the Brody School of Medicine, played a role in getting the program started.
"I really thought it was something that was really worthwhile," Sydney Cunningham said. She volunteers at Pitt County Memorial Hospital with the Service League of Greenville and the PCMH volunteer organization and wanted to bring the same service to ECU.
Patients are often alone and have limited mobility, she said, and can easily get lost in the ever-growing and changing medical center. She knew volunteers could help patients navigate the buildings as well as provide other services.
Volunteers, she said, "really want to be there, and they really want to help."
Dartt is working to expand the program and recruit more volunteers for all ECU Physicians practice sites. The program is not a result of budget cuts, said Dartt, and volunteers are not taking the place of employees.
Volunteers have one mission. "They help make the patient experience better and allow us to go the extra mile for our patients," she said.
Volunteers perform many tasks at the various ECU Physicians' practice sites. They check patients in at the front desk, escort them to different parts of the building, assist in retrieving wheelchairs and perform other clerical duties.
All of these duties, said Millar, are done with a smile.
"All the people I work with here are happy. It seems that they were hired because of their personality," said Millar.
Dr. Nicholas Benson, vice dean and medical director of ECU Physicians, is eager to have more of this energy in the workplace and expand the volunteer program. "The compassion and friendliness that the volunteers bring to our clinics will be a great boost to the outstanding patient care from our providers and nurses," he said.
Millar hopes to continue giving back to the East Carolina Heart Institute.
"Greenville should be proud to have a medical facility like the one we have here," he said.
For more information about the ECU Physicians volunteer program, contact Dartt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 252-744-1841.