Volunteer Spotlight: Amber McKnight and Holly Gamlen


(L-R) Amber McKnight and Holly Gamlen with patient Gerry Calone

Magee’s Volunteer Program offers an opportunity for students starting their careers in the medical field to spend time shadowing clinicians and also providing hands-on support with patient activities and dining services.

Amber McKnight is studying physical therapy and Holly Gamlen hopes to become a physician. They shared with us their experiences volunteering at Magee.

Magee Rehabilitation (MR):  How did you first hear about volunteering at Magee?

Amber McKnight (AM): I have seen Magee in passing whenever I had to go to classes across the street but did not know much about what services the hospital provided. I knew I wanted to volunteer at a rehab hospital and was lucky enough to be able to reach out to someone who knew a lot about Magee. She highly recommended it based on her experiences there and inspired me to apply (Thanks, Jane!). It was a perfect fit from day one.

Holly Gamlen (HG): I was accepted into Drexel’s graduate school and searched for volunteer programs in hospitals around the Philadelphia area. After researching Magee’s care and services I knew it would be the right place. I was excited to be a part of the amazing recovery programs available.

MR: In what areas of Magee do you volunteer?

AM: I volunteer and observe on the General Rehabilitation unit as well as with Concierge Services. I have the privilege to help set up for the musical guest and karaoke every Thursday and have helped with the pizza parties on Friday nights. 

HG: I primarily volunteer in activities, on bingo night, pizza night, and movie night. I also volunteer in the Adolescent and Young Adult Assistive Technology Suite and in the Dining Room.

MR: Do you have a favorite memory or patient story?

AM: I remember one patient who was especially struggling with coping with his injuries. He just did not want to get out of bed. He had a lot of suffering in his past and it seemed like it would really be tough to get him motivated and to participate in his therapy. As weeks went by, I got to spend Thursday afternoons with him and was able to sit and talk with him during therapy. I was honored to learn so much about his past and to hear his stories. It was amazing to see him go from refusing therapy to eventually walking up and down the stairs! He still has a long journey ahead, but it was awesome to see him getting healthier and watching his mood improve each week. Turns out, he was actually extremely funny and had a great sense of humor! 

HG: One pizza night, we performed karaoke for some of the patients. We sang some of our favorite songs and took requests. Throughout the evening, none of the patients wanted to come up and take a turn singing. However, after most people left and we started cleaning up, one young patient came up to sing a few of his favorite country songs. Amber and I sang and danced along with him, and it made him so happy. It meant so much to be a part of his joy and positive energy. I love providing the entertainment during activities, but I also really enjoy getting to build meaningful relationships with patients over time. I can only hope that I have a fraction of the positive impact on their lives as they do on mine.

MR: What has been your most significant learning moment?

AM: I learn something new every time I step foot inside of the hospital. I have learned so much about interacting with patients, their families, employees, and volunteers. My biggest learning moment came early in my time at Magee, when I realized how every patient is different. They all have different backgrounds, stories, and beliefs. I learned that it is impossible to treat every patient the same, and that you have to respect your patients as individuals and learn about them to be able to help them as best as you can.

HG: A few patients stand out in my mind when I think of my personal growth at Magee. Shortly after I started volunteering, there were two patients that I was able to get to know really well. They told me about their stories, their injuries, and their experiences at Magee. Since then, I’ve had a greater understanding of the challenges faced by our patients and the determination that they meet them with.

MR: Where do you see yourself in five years?

AM: I am finishing up applying to graduate school for physical therapy, so fingers crossed I get accepted! I hope to finish graduate school in three years and then getting started on my career as a physical therapist. I hope there is a pit stop to Walt Disney World somewhere in those five years though.

HG:  After completing my masters in medical science program at Drexel, I will apply to medical school. I have developed a strong interest in rehabilitation medicine and plan to explore this field even more in the near future. 

MR: Anything else you want to share?

AM: I just want to share my gratitude for the opportunity to work with everyone at Magee. A huge thanks to Meg, Steph, Robin, Jeffrey, the Dining Services employees (for having to listen to my karaoke on Thursdays), Jane, and my parents! It has been too much fun volunteering and observing at Magee, thank you all so much! 

HG: Thank you for allowing me to volunteer! It’s an honor.

Click here to learn more about volunteering at Magee!


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