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SOM student Alex Richard receives Rhode Island Hospital Volunteer of the Year award

By Kylee Denesha

UMass Medical School Communications

August 18, 2020
 
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Alex Richard, SOM '24

Alex Richard, SOM ’24, was named the 2019 Volunteer of the Year for Rhode Island Hospital. The Cranston resident dedicated more than 1,000 volunteer hours over four years manning the family assistance information desk in the adult emergency department.

“I started volunteering during my senior year of high school, and I found it exciting because I was in a very busy area of the hospital,” said Richard. “Even as a 17-year-old, I felt like I could contribute and practice accountability. I was seeing real patients go in for real surgeries done by real doctors. It was my first introduction to medicine and made me inspired to study it.”

Richard said he was surprised and honored to receive the award.

“It meant a lot to feel recognized and appreciated for sticking with this group through the pandemic,” Richard said.

Daily volunteer responsibilities for Richard focused on the needs of families, helping visitors navigate loved ones’ visits to the emergency room. At the information desk, he would guide family members through the hospital, answer questions and provide support in challenging times.

“A lot of the time when I was escorting someone to a family member’s room, they would share with me their emotions and thoughts. While I was not directly at the bedside, I was able to show compassion toward other people as a part of the team. It’s what kept me coming back year after year,” he said.

Richard graduated from the University of Notre Dame with the Class of 2020, where he studied science preprofessional studies, the school’s version of a premed track. Concluding his undergraduate experience entirely online due to COVID-19, Richard immediately transitioned to his next virtual education setting—UMass Medical School. UMMS is using a hybrid version of in-person and virtual learning.

“Once I interviewed here, I walked out of the interview knowing that this is where I wanted to be,” he said. “There is so much medicine that I want to see and witness in person. It is certainly a unique adjustment ending college and starting medical school from my computer, but it is one I would not trade, nonetheless. I’m grateful to be entering this field during a time like this, watching, observing and learning as much as possible. That way I can help my community someday.”