Why do I have to do clinical volunteering?

by Anne Reedstrom

As I make my way home on the bus, it occurs to me that I answer a ton of questions in any given day. Students often preface their question with “I know it’s a stupid question, but…” There are no stupid questions. Really. There’s no shame in not knowing something and asking someone to explain it to you. I eat and have an apartment and a TiVo because you have questions and I can help you find the answers. There is, however one question that I dislike. Not because it is a stupid question or because I get asked it every day, but because the question itself surprises me.

“Why do I have to do clinical volunteering?” This is the granddaddy of them all. But there are also its relatives:

Cousin Bob: “Do I have to, really?”

Nephew Pete: “But you don’t really learn anything, do you? That’s what my friend’s sister’s roommate’s dog said, anyway.”

Sister Sue: “I shadowed once, for two hours, in high school. Shouldn’t that count?”

And its most evil of relatives to which I dare not give a name: “Do I have to do more of that pointless volunteering?”

I cringe just writing those sentences.

The answer to all of them is yes, a resounding, reverberating, shout it from the rooftop of Rodin and risk some facilities people running after you with clubs, YES.

The other simple answer is “because it’s good for you,” but that’s what my mother always told me about eating peas, and I won’t touch the things. Gross.

Still another simple answer is because it is important for admission to medical school. Not everything you do needs to be because medical schools want you to, but this is an important component to your application.

So what’s the real answer? You should volunteer in a way which brings you into contact with patients in a medical setting, even in a limited way. You should do this because this will help you confirm that you want to spend all day, every day around cranky sick people. It will help you become more familiar and comfortable in medical facilities. You will learn about what nurses and other medical staff do, see how hard they work and, hopefully, develop an appreciation of their efforts, which will be important during your clerkships, since the nurses know it all and you know nothing. It’s also not a bad idea to experience life at the bottom of the food chain. You will strengthen your communication skills, or perhaps discover that you do have some, and begin to learn how to establish a rapport with patients. These are all invaluable skills that you will need as a physician. And, medical schools want to see that you have explored the profession and aren’t entering into this endeavor blindly, or just because your parents want you to. In other words, it is important for admission to medical school.

So why is this my least favorite question of the hundreds of questions I get asked? Because deep down inside me, as an educator and, despite my reputation as the “Mean One,” someone who cares about you and your successes, I want you to want to gain this kind of experience and it depresses me when you don’t. I want you to realize the value of it and how much you can learn. I want you to be excited about being in a hospital, whether it’s the cardiac floor or the ED, and become inspired by the work of the doctors and nurses you observe. I want you to see the patients as people and want to help them, even if you can only get them a blanket, some water, or the nurse.

I know you’re busy. You’re Penn students; you’ve got a fair bit going on in your lives. Even still, I want you to want to make the time to educate yourself and help others all in one fell swoop.

Ultimately, it is good for you, like peas and the other green vegetables I eat instead of them, and I want you to want it because, selfishly, I want you to be the best medical students and doctors you can be.

Government & Policy Career Fair Today!

Head on over to Bodek Lounge in Houston Hall today between 11:00am – 3:00pm for our annual Government & Policy Career Fair!

Please note: The fair is open to students and alumni of the University of Pennsylvania, as well as current students of Haverford College, Swarthmore College and Bryn Mawyr College.

Registered for today’s fair are:

Consulting, Politics & Policy

  • Acumen, LLC
  • American Enterprise Institute
  • Deloitte Consulting LLP
  • Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.
  • Maximus
  • MDRC
  • Fels Public Policy Internship program
  • U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG)


  • Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
  • Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)
  • Federal Reserve Bank of New York
  • Internal Revenue Service


  • City Year Greater Philadelphia
  • Education Pioneers
  • MATCH Charter Public School
  • Teach for America
  • Urban Teacher Center


  • Clean Water Action
  • Environment America
  • Federal Energy Regulatory Commission


  • General Dynamics Information Technology
  • U.S. Marine Corps Office Selection Station

Health & Human Services

  • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
  • Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency


  • Department of State
  • Peace Corps

Law, Intelligence & Regulation

  • Drug Enforcement Administration
  • Federal Bureau of Prisons
  • Federal Energy Regulatory Commission


  • Marine Corps Officer Selection Station


A Day in the Life: Global Marketing & Education Consultant

October 17th through October 21st is our International Careers week.  We’ll be highlighting our resources and featuring events to help those of you who want to study, volunteer, intern or have a career abroad or in international relations.  All of these highlights are in preparation for our International Opportunities Fair on October 25th (save that date!).  To help shed light on a career path abroad, we welcome alum Irene Tieh on Wednesday, October 19th to @PennCareerDay on Twitter.  She is currently a marketing and education consultant, and has vast experience living abroad and working with international clients. Read more about Irene below, and don’t forget to follow her on the 19th!

Irene Tieh spent her lifetime bridging the East and West.  She studied, traveled, lived and worked in China.  After graduating from UPENN with a MA and BA, Irene earned a full scholarship to study at Beijing’s Language and Culture University where she taught Chinese professionals English as well as coached students on how to prepare for their studies in the US.  She then moved to New York to pursue a career in global marketing where she worked for the pioneers of consumer product marketing and branding- Estee Lauder Companies and L’Oreal USA.

After years of traveling around the world, Irene was ready to return to China as an expatriate.  She took an executive position at Education First Professional English Division to develop a Career Services program, which evolved into a department of 4 business units that expanded across 4 Chinese cities.  To differentiate Education First (formerly English First) from its competitors, Irene spearheaded the departments’ strategic branding by identifying key business partnerships, and by producing media-covered programs and events that encouraged students to use English confidently in real-life situations. Through her work in branding and marketing, Irene realized a strong correlation between marketing and launching products with helping people in their careers.  Just as businesses go through different cycles of development to stay relevant and current to their market, people go through different stages of life to evolve and transform themselves.  Given her corporate and education background, Irene has developed an effective marketing approach to help individuals with the next phases in their college or professional endeavors.

In addition to helping UPENN admissions and career services, Irene is a sought-after Cross Cultural Expert specializing in China and US.  After working in China, she became an advocate for human capital and leadership because people or talent remains the biggest challenge for employers in that region.  She works directly with CEOs of major corporations as Co-Chair of the Membership Committee for CEO Connection, an exclusive membership organization that connects the best business leaders worldwide. She is an experience lecturer who presented to the Beijing Olympic Committee as well major Chinese universities and corporations.

The PennLink Job Search – Fairy Jobmother Style

By Claire Klieger

Courtesy of Disney's Cinderella

Wouldn’t it be nice if PennLink job or internship announcements that interest you magically appeared in your email inbox? Seems too good to be true, right? Wrong! This wish can come true with PennLink’s very own Fairy Jobmother, or “search agent” (personally, I like “Fairy Jobmother” better—it’s a little snazzier, don’t you think? Or maybe it’s just because with a 3 year old daughter, Disney princess references are never far from my mind).

In your “jobs” tab, if you open an advanced search, there is the option for you to save that search as a search agent. You can create as many different ones as you have areas of interest. Once you’ve saved a search agent, it will appear on your search agents sub tab and you can enable it (with a virtual wave of your magical mouse) to run the search however often you want (once a week, every day, whatever) and PennLink will then email you the results of this search.  It’s as simple as bippity boppity boo! (If only getting the jobs were that easy…)

Step One: Save your "advanced search" as a "search agent" by giving it a title.


Step 2: Under the "search agents" tab, select "schedule."
Step 3: Click "yes" to enable your job search agent to run however often you'd like.