Farewell to Fairview

My relationship with the University of Minnesota Medical Center Fairview began at the moment of my birth, for I was brought into this world on the 4th floor of the West Building of Fairview Riverside Hospital. Later, when I volunteered at the hospital, I’d hear “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” playing over the PA system to announce a birth, and I would imagine what it was like the time it signified mine.

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The University of Minnesota Medical Center Fairview – Riverside campus. This hospital is located on the west bank of the Mississippi River while the University campus is directly across the river.

I grew up visiting my father at the University of Minnesota Medical Center Fairview where he was an electric technician in the radiation oncology department. He would show me around the department, introduce me to doctors and nurses, and sometimes even show me how the machines worked. Most notably, these days were Take Your Child To Work Days. It was my first experience with the college and hospital atmosphere.

When I was fifteen, I started as a junior volunteer at the medical center. It was my first job of sorts. Not only did I volunteer in the gift shop and day care, I also went to educational events throughout the hospital to learn more about various careers in the health field. My knowledge of the hospital expanded greatly during this time as I began to learn my way around the University and Riverside campuses on both sides of the Mississippi River. Of course I still got lost every now and then especially thanks to construction and sometimes felt unsafe, but I can laugh about it today. For example, I was scared to go just a few blocks down the street to turn in some paperwork for my father because I was in the “big city”. I made it a block or two and turned around and went back. Don’t worry, this fear did not last long. Slowly, but surely, the hospital became my comfort zone.

I continued as a junior volunteer throughout high school, expanding to volunteer in another gift shop, as a patient escort, and in a nutrition office organizing information. Volunteering here became a routine part of my summer. One day a week, I’d ride in to campus with my dad, go do my own thing all day, and meet up with him at the end for a ride in rush hour traffic back home.

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The University of Minnesota Medical Center Fairview – University campus. The main hospital building is on the left, other medical center buildings are on the right, and my freshman dorm is in the foreground.

I then chose the University of Minnesota for college and lived within walking distance of the hospital for the past four years. In fact, my freshman dorm was just a block away from the hospital and it was one of the dorms that my father walked past to get between his parking ramp and the hospital. Every day I went to class, I walked by the hospital; I’d see medical students, doctors, dental students, nurses, all sorts of medical professionals outside. I even learned my way around campus in relation to the hospital because it was what I knew best.

In the beginning of my junior year of college, I scored a position in a research lab in the cancer research center building at the back of the hospital. Seriously if you went down 7 floors from my lab and walked down the hallway, you’d reach my father’s office. For the past two years, I have had the fortune to spend my time in this lab until just a few weeks ago when we moved to our new building. Nonetheless, this is my last week working in that lab. Working here really made the hospital the center of my life. I would spend every bit of free time during the day here even if I just had an hour between classes, and with our lab spaces spread throughout the medical center I crossed the medical campus frequently.

The volunteer badge from my freshman year of college. I "lost" my first one from my freshman year of high school because, well, I didn't want my picture to be of my 15-year-old self anymore.

The volunteer badge from my freshman year of college. I “lost” my first one from my freshman year of high school because, well, I didn’t want my picture to be of my 15-year-old self anymore.

Volunteering at the hospital continued to be a routine for me. The summer after my freshman year, I volunteered in a nursing unit and since May 2012, I have volunteered in the infusion suite of the cancer center. And now, after seven years as a volunteer earning over 550 volunteer hours, I am retiring my badge and my title as a volunteer. I have had amazing experiences at this hospital taking classes, giving back, and doing research. I’ve been able to dress up like Cinderella and visit sick kids in the brand new Amplatz Children’s Hospital. I’ve helped improve volunteering in the infusion suite by training new volunteers and writing a guide for volunteers. I’ve received a scholarship for college as a junior volunteer. I’ve learned a lot and changed my career goals many times and after learning more, I’ve further defined these goals. It is here where I really determined the course of my future.

It is now time to say goodbye to this hospital I know so well. Sure, it may be pretty weird to lament leaving some buildings and an organization, but within it lies hundreds of relationships and memories be them brief or enduring. As my grandfather told me the other day, “We move in, move up, move out, and most importantly, move on.” With a move to Illinois and starting med school and grad school in just a few weeks, it is time to move on.

Farewell, Fairview.

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Hanna is a MD/PhD student at the University of Illinois and an aspiring physician scientist who aims to specialize in hepatobiliary cancers. She is also passionate about teaching, leadership, and advocacy. The energy she once used to pep up crowds as a college marching band member is now directed toward exciting and educating others about science and medicine, especially through her tweets at @MDPhDToBe and her blog at www.mdphdtobe.com.

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