General pediatrics clinic relies on the kindness of the community

Posted March 28, 2012

Reading books for children © UC Regents
Through Reach Out and Read, all young patients of the UC Davis general pediatrics clinic receive books to encourage literacy.

It takes a village to raise a child or, in the general pediatrics clinic at UC Davis Children's Hospital, to help young patients and their families have a pleasant and fun visit to the doctor's office.

One of the longest running programs at the clinic is Reach Out and Read. Through this national effort, children up to age 5 receive books during visits with their pediatricians. The program is funded by individual donors.

"This program is very special to us," says Marla Deckard-Shorter, the nurse manager for the clinic, which treats infants, children, adolescents and young adults up to age 21. "There are huge links among early literacy, school readiness, school success and lifelong health, and Reach Out and Read helps achieve all of those."

Volunteers also promote literacy by reading books to children as they wait for their appointments to begin. The clinic has hosted several special guest readers, including members of Alpha Phi Omega, Sacramento State's co-ed service fraternity; representatives of the Sacramento Sheriff K-9 Association; and Congresswoman Doris Matsui.

One of the clinic's regular volunteers, Mary Madru, has been a reader for about seven years.

"Reading is so critical for learning and bonding," said Madru, who is a retired nurse. "I feel like I'm a gardener planting seeds in little ones' and their parents' minds that will help throughout their formative years."

Be a volunteer

  • If you are interested in being a clinic volunteer, you can begin the process by calling UC Davis Health System Volunteer Services at 916-734-2401.
  • To donate items or arrange for a character visit, call Diana Sundberg, manager of child life and creative arts therapy for UC Davis Children's Hospital, at 916-734-7153.
  • To provide funding to the clinic for books or other needs, call Lezlie McBride in UC Davis Health System Health Sciences Development at 916-734-9188.

Companies, community groups and churches volunteer as well. When PBS children's television show character Sid the Science Kid visited the hospital, he also stopped by the clinic to cheer the children and encourage them to explore science.

Over the 2011 holidays, employees from SIMS Metal Management, a metal and electronics recycler, visited the clinic wearing Santa suits.

"We decorated the waiting area like Santa's village, where kids received gifts and had their photos taken with Santa," said Pamela Rogers, the clinic's clerical supervisor and coordinator of Santa's vists. "The families loved it. They said they preferred to come here instead of going to the mall."

But SIMS' generosity isn't restricted to the holidays, she added. The company donates throughout the year. The team recently purchased new flat-screen televisions for the clinic waiting rooms.

Enthusiastic, hands-on support also comes from the Sacramento Modular Railroaders. The clinic waiting room has a model train that runs on a track hung from the ceiling. The railroaders check the train every month -- for free -- to make sure it stays in pristine condition, replacing train and track parts as needed.

For the past three years, the Friends Church of Citrus Heights has donated knit hats and blankets for young patients.

"During those cold winter days, they really came in handy," Deckard-Shorter said.

Staff and volunteer © UC Regents
Emily Ancayan, a UC Davis biological sciences student, shadows pediatrician Omar Ahmed as part of her volunteer work with the UC Davis general pediatrics clinic.

Help also comes from within UC Davis. For 10-week rotations, about 20 health-career oriented undergraduate students each quarter help a doctor or nurse they choose to shadow.

"This gives them the chance to really experience what it is like to be a nurse or doctor: learning to take vital signs, listening to patient histories, seeing the various roles in a health-care setting and helping to keep the clinic running smoothly," Deckard-Shorter said.

But it's never taking without giving. The clinic staff, in turn, donates time and effort to the community. Helping in women and family shelters, speaking at health-education events, and providing toys for children of men and women serving in the armed forces are just three of the ways they give back to the community.

Deckard-Shorter hopes that the community's generosity will continue to help pediatric clinic patients in new and innovative ways.

"Volunteers help make the clinic more special for everyone," she said. "As needs arise or opportunities come our way, we go for it!"