Isabel Pereira is a Resident at the HealthPartners Occupational Medicine Residency Program. She is often busy to seek out volunteer opportunities on her own, so when an opportunity to volunteer as a guest reader at a summer read-aloud program for children came along, she eagerly accepted.
This summer, she volunteered for The Saint Paul Public Schools Children’s Defense Fund
Freedom Schools Program at the Freedom School in St. Paul. It is a free summer program for children K-8, to help prevent summer reading loss in children during summer vacation. The program was seeking resident physician volunteers to be guest readers for their Harambee Read-Aloud program. The volunteers choose reading material from a selection of short stories, poems and folk tales to share with the young students.
“I showed up dressed in my white coat and stethoscope, as requested. To my surprise the
gymnasium was full of students,” she said. “I channeled my inner reading rainbow and read the book Drum Dream Girl. As I began, a teacher from the school started playing on drums with a soft beat as an accompaniment to the reading. It was a great experience!”
As an Occupational Medical Resident, Isabel’s schedule is busy, but slightly flexible compared to other residents, as she works during the day, and doesn’t have to work nights or on-call. With some careful planning, she manages time between her residency and her hobbies – reading, gardening, and spending time with friends and family.
She stays open to possibilities and takes life one thing at a time, which is what led her to an experience like the Freedom Schools reading program. The event was early morning so it fit in her schedule, and her childhood memories of singing, dancing and listening to others read made her feel like she’d fit right in with the children.
“What a great way to start a morning!” she said. “It was a very rewarding experience and I am grateful for the opportunity. The children were sweet and welcoming, and seemed genuinely interested in listening to me as I read.”
Isabel grew up in Arden Hills, a St. Paul suburb. From a young age, she’d been interested in healthcare and medicine. She grew up with two parents who were doctors and also had extended family who worked in healthcare. She was also heavily influenced by the experience she had growing up with a brother with special needs.
In high school and college, she volunteered for many years at Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis. It helped solidify her interest in medicine. Volunteering on a Mission trip to Peru with Children’s Surgery International exposed her to surgical specialties, cleft lip and palate disease, and issues of poverty and lack of healthcare.
“It’s easy to just treat symptoms or a disease,” she said. “Volunteering, in general, keeps you grounded to the personal, social, and human side of healthcare.”