It was 6:58 p.m. on a Saturday and Upstate medical student James Osei-Sarpong Jr. was getting ready to call it a day.
He was finishing his shift as a circulation desk assistant in the Family Resource Center on the 12th floor of Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital, and wanted to head home to relax before studying renal anatomy and physiology.
The FRC closes at 7 p.m. James had been there since 11 a.m. and was working by himself. As he started to close the doors, a woman appeared.
Her young son had been admitted to the children’s hospital from the Emergency Department. She had heard about the FRC and came to see if she could get any movies on DVD for her son to watch.
James didn’t think twice.
“We’re closed on Sunday,” he said. “I wanted to make sure she had something for her son.”
The woman picked out a couple of movies, staying about 15 minutes before going back to her son’s room.
“I made conversation,” James said, breaking into a smile. “I’m good at it.”
James doesn’t think he did anything extraordinary, but the story has been making the rounds. “I was just doing my job,” he said.
Clinical reference librarian Michelle Bergquist, James’ supervisor in the Family Resource Center, is happy the story’s out there.
“I get comments all the time about the students here,” she said.
About 15 students and volunteers help fill out shifts in the Family Resource Center. Hospital patients and family members rely on the FRC to look up information on diseases, check out movies and video games or just relax in a quiet, comforting space.
Bergquist said this is not the only time James has been courteous and helpful to a family member or a young patient. “It’s what I expect of him,” she said. “He knows that.”
The closing-time visit by the patient’s mom, Bergquist said, is an example of how a seemingly small gesture can make a huge difference in somebody’s life; of how the smallest things can have the biggest impact.
“Two minutes – that’s how fast you can improve someone’s perception,” she said.
The FRC is a perfect place to do that.
“It’s a place where we have the opportunity to make a difference in small ways,” Bergquist said. “Coloring a picture here can make (a child’s) day, give them a sense of control and put a smile on their face. Everything we do here is based on helping patients feel normal, and being involved and engaged with them.”
James is happy to be a part of all that.
“All the little things do matter,” he said. “The patient is the main concern. There are many ways to fill the role. I’m not a doctor yet, but having a conversation, the mercy you show to others, can be part of the healing process. It’s an important thing to take away.”
James’ time in the FRC is drawing to a close. He will work this summer as a research assistant in the Department of Surgery, and then begin his second year of medical school. His heavier study load and preparation for board exams won’t allow him time to work in the FRC, but he hopes to volunteer there when he can.
Before coming to Upstate, James graduated from Syracuse University in 2013 with a degree in biology. He took time off to work in research and to graduate from the AMSNY Post-Baccalaureate program at the University at Buffalo.
James had never worked in a library before, but is grateful for the chance to talk with kids and their families to help make the hospital experience as pleasant as possible.
“You have to give your best effort all the time, despite the circumstances,” James said. “You never know what they’re going through. I have faith in God, and everything you do best is for him, not for yourself.”
Any student interested in working at the Family Resource Center can e-mail Michelle Bergquist at firstname.lastname@example.org.