A day of volunteering: UChicago Medicine's 16th Annual Day of Service and Reflection

On a recent Saturday in May, more than 200 employees, residents and their friends and families participated in the University of Chicago Medicine’s 16th Annual Day of Service and Reflection (DOSAR). DOSAR offers an opportunity for UChicago Medicine volunteers to help South Side community organizations, performing such hands-on tasks as gardening, cleaning and painting. This year, volunteers supported 13 organizations.

The annual event is organized by UChicago Medicine’s Urban Health Initiative (UHI) which fosters partnerships with civic leaders, community organizations, health care providers and residents to improve health and access to quality care on the South Side of Chicago.

The annual event, on May 19, started off with an early morning rally and breakfast where volunteers received motivational messages from UChicago Medicine’s leaders, including Brenda Battle, vice president of the Urban Health Initiative and chief diversity and inclusion officer, among others. Wearing shirts featuring the DOSAR theme –#ucmserves – volunteers then boarded their buses and headed to work sites across Chicago’s South Side.

One of these locations was Demoiselle 2 Femme, which provides community-based programs such as S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), financial literacy and health education to girls on the far South Side. UChicago Medicine volunteers helped the organization clean, paint and garden to breathe new life into the space.

Giving back matters. It not only makes you feel good, but UChicago also has a responsibility to do it because we are able.

Kenneth S. Polonsky, MD, dean and executive vice president for medical affairs at the University of Chicago, helped stain cabinets in the facility’s kitchen, noting how small changes can make a significant difference.

“The cabinets look much better than they did when we started, and this is going to transform the usefulness of this kitchen for the young women who take advantage of the program,” Polonsky said.

The group’s founder and CEO, Sherida Morrison was grateful for the help.

“To partner with UChicago Medicine and for all of these professionals to come out and say, ‘I am a servant leader’ — who may doctors by trade, but are also servants — has put a smile not only our faces, but in our hearts,” Morrison said.

In Englewood, 50 volunteers from UChicago Medicine’s Department of Radiology planted flower gardens and painted hallways at the Olive Branch Mission, which provides food, shelter, housing and human services to the homeless. Radiology dispatched the largest group of volunteers at this year’s DOSAR event.

“The radiology department has been at the forefront of volunteerism,” said Monica Geyer, director of the UChicago Medicine radiology department, which adopted the charity about eight years ago to offer support through annual DOSAR activities and drives for clothing and school supplies.

“Giving back matters,” said Alberto Jimenez, UChicago Medicine assistant director of radiology, who organized his colleagues in the volunteer effort. “It not only makes you feel good, but UChicago also has a responsibility to do it because we are able.”

DOSAR was deeply personal for some. In her sixth year of participating, Battle painted and vacuumed the Langley Avenue Church of God.

“I am a pastor’s kid,” said Battle. “So, to be able to give back and clean this church, I am having all sorts of emotions — doing the job I grew up doing.”

Doriane Miller, MD, associate professor of medicine and director for the Center for Community Health and Vitality, cleaned the Langley Avenue Church of God. She stressed the importance of extending the concept of care beyond its clinical definition.

“This is an opportunity to give back in ways that we don’t do on the day to day,” Miller said. “This contributes in ways other than delivering direct care and medicine to individuals. This is one of the best experiences we have in terms of how we give back to the community.”

Urban Health Initiative

The Urban Health Initiative (UHI) is UChicago Medicine’s community health department through which population health and community benefit are administered.

Learn more about the urban health initiative