Lily Chang, a senior pre-med student at Washington University, was looking for a way to get involved in the St. Louis community. Interested in geriatrics and rheumatology, Lily heard from a friend about the Visiting Nurse Association of Greater St. Louis (VNA) and thought it would be a great opportunity to serve others. She wanted to explore potential career paths as well.
Lily’s father is a rheumatologist, and from an early age she observed his work and knew she wanted to help people through medicine. She became attracted to the relationship-building aspects of the profession, and she glamoured at the way doctors could help patients with their health and well-being, aiding them in living the life they want to live.
During her first few years at Washington University, Lily says she spent most of her time in her own world, figuring out her life and future. “By senior year, I felt really connected to St. Louis, so it was time to get involved,” says Lily. “Visit-A-Bit helped me explore a career path and find a way to work with older adults and make that connection.”
Lily started volunteering with VNA’s Visit-A-Bit program in the fall of her senior year, and she and the senior she visits have built a close friendship. They quickly bonded over their shared love of art. In fact, they spent many of their visits painting together.
“I think painting is a nice thing to do with our hands,” says Lily. “It’s a lot of pressure sitting facing each other for an hour, but painting is something really fun to do. Arts and crafts tends to be reserved for little kids, but she seems to really like it, and it’s something I like to do as well.”
Due to COVID-19, Lily is back home in Miami, but she and her senior have been doing phone visits. “That transition was a little hard since we both like seeing each other in person to talk, but it’s better to talk on the phone than not at all.”
Lily’s involvement with VNA has gone beyond her participation in Visit-A-Bit over the last few months. In association with Washington University’s Chinese Student Association, Lily coordinated a volunteer effort to write letters to seniors in VNA’s care. These letters contained paintings and notes related to the holidays wishing seniors well and letting them know that somebody was thinking about them. “A lot of them have to stay indoors, so knowing that someone’s thinking about them is important.”
When asked why she thinks other college students should volunteer with Visit-A-Bit, Lily stressed how important it is for people to get outside of their comfort zones. “I really enjoy the fact I’m getting outside of my college bubble,” says Lily. “Everyone is focused on education, and we all have similar tracks, so it was important to get outside of that bubble and start meeting people that I never thought I would. [My senior] and I talk for an hour every week, and by doing that, we have really deep conversations about our life, where we came from and who we are. It’s a deep connection I would not have had if I hadn’t joined Visit-A-Bit. The connection you make is really unique.”