OW: How long have you been associated with Operation Walk – Freedom to Move and what is your roll in (or specialty you bring to) the organization?
SW: I have been a board member for the past 3 years but I have supported this team from the periphery for many years prior. I started working as a nurse practitioner at Prov St Vincent 16 years ago where I developed the total joint program for the hospital. I am acutely aware of the impact of having a cohesive team, streamlined communication and protocols can have on efficiency and quality of care. I now act as the volunteer coordinator and arrange shipping of equipment and medicines to and from the DR. Having a competent well-rounded team is essential in caring for patients. Each of our volunteers are hand picked with a focus on communication, skill, flexibility, creativity and must have a strong team work ethic. Our success in the DR is directly related to how our team works together to support each other in order to keep our patients safe and have the best outcome possible.
OW: What about the organization makes you want to donate your time and expertise. What stories have touched you personally or have been especially meaningful to you in how you view our mission?
SW: I am humbled by this opportunity we have. These patients are incredibly resilient, thankful and appreciative of what we are able to do to help them. They in no way take this surgery for granted and realize this procedure will alter the trajectory of their life and the lives around them. For many of these patients, this surgery will allow them to work or even walk for the first time in many years and without out our help would never have this opportunity. I am particularly proud of the fact that our team not only performs miracles but also focuses on teaching the local medical staff new techniques shares ideas and allows them to be part of our surgical team. It is so important to not only help others but to take the time to impart our knowledge and expertise to the local residents so that the gift can keep giving! Our goal is that we can touch so many lives both physically and though education that we will not be need in the DR anymore!
OW: Who inspires you in the organization and why?
SW: There is a lot of hard work that goes on behind the scenes in terms of paperwork, logistics, phone calls etc. All of the little things that we do throughout the year to make this one week efficient, fun, impactful and healing and the time that it takes focusing on the little things inspires me. Many of us never get to meet a patient or hold their hand, but we do get to give our time to the providers that take a week away from work and their family to give of themselves purely for the sake of caring for a stranger. I am in awe of everyone’s hard work and determination to provide the best service and experience we can to all of our patients. I am inspired by the pure humanity and love that everyone puts into making this experience successful. No mater how you contribute, we all come out stronger, more thoughtful and more whole.
OW: What is your background in charity or in healthcare?
SW: I was brought up with a strong work ethic and with the understanding that giving back to others is as important if not more important than anything else. Caring for people or animals has been in my DNA since birth so I have volunteered from a very young age in projects that focus on animals, healthcare, homelessness, and education for a very long time. I have an undergraduate degree in psychology and then became an EMT and worked on an ambulance in Boston before going back to graduate school to become a family nurse practitioner.
OW: If you could tell the world one thing about why this mission is important, what would that be?
SW: With relative ease and a minimal financial undertaking, we are able to dramatically change people’s lives by providing them the opportunity to work, run with their children, and provide for their families. The impact we have to change not only a person’s life but also a community’s is amazing. We “pay it forward” by bringing education to the bedside and teach the staff and provide opportunities for advancement that are otherwise never realized.