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Who Volunteers?

AJ Espinoza

AJ Espinoza

  • Senior at Syracuse University, dual-majoring in neuroscience and psychology
  • Volunteering at Upstate Medical University since 2014
  • Came to SU with a goal of eventually becoming a doctor

After attending a premed educational seminar and speaking to a former hospital volunteer, AJ contacted Upstate’s Volunteer Services department.

"When I heard about the opportunities available at Upstate I was certain that the hospital was the right place for me," said AJ. "Through the volunteer program I have been exposed to many departments, being able to meet staff and gain the valuable experience I need to get into medical school."

AJ began his service at Upstate in the Volunteer Express Program, where he learned the layout of the hospital, proper transport procedures and how to engage patients. Since then AJ has been helping patients in the recovery room, as well as job shadowing, and now assists with research at Upstate. In fact, in May 2015 he was awarded a $50,000 grant to conduct his own research.

"I had some experience volunteering in high school," said AJ. "But now I feel like a well rounded candidate for med school and I have learned skills that will help me in the future, not just as a doctor but as a person. Upstate has given me the overall hospital experience and I couldn't be happier."

Mary Demong

Mary Demong

  • Retired Syracuse city school teacher
  • Volunteer at Upstate Medical University for two and one-half years
  • Had always had friends who worked for the hospital
  • Joined Upstate's team when her teenage son sustained a skateboard injury and was treated at Golisano Children's Hospital

"My son fractured his arm," said Mary. "We loved the care he received at Golisano. The staff made us feel at home. The doctors were great. They performed a surgery to repair his arm and he was out of the hospital in about two days."

Her interaction with the staff and the service her son received led her to want to give back in thanks. Mary now volunteers in the Volunteer Express Program and for special events. Like many Upstate volunteers, she finds happiness in helping others.

"Volunteering at Upstate is very rewarding," said Mary. "It feels good to know that you're making a difference in the lives of people who visit the hospital."

Derek Smith

Derek Smith

  • Age 24, started volunteering at Upstate a year and a half ago
  • Giving back to the hospital that nursed him back to health
  • Wanted to explore career options

When he was twelve Derek was hit by a car. Needing surgery and rehabilitation to fix his fractured leg, he was taken to Upstate. 

"I thought, what better way to show my appreciation for the service I received than by helping patients," said Derek. "Through volunteering I also discovered what I want to do with my life."

Derek would like to be a public speaker. He believes that sharing his story will help motivate others who have gone through surgeries and are going through the rehabilitation process.

"Working in the Volunteer Express Program has allowed me to become accustomed to public speaking and talking to people who may be suffering," said Derek. "I've learned how to gauge conversational topics and gear them towards helping and comforting patients."

Jack Edgerton

Jack Edgerton

  • Retired business owner
  • Volunteer at Upstate Medical University for one and one-half years
  • Cancer survivor
  • Loves listening to patient's stories and being able to tell his own

In 2007, Jack was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. After undergoing a surgery at Upstate that removed his tumors he thought he was cancer free. Two years later Jack was diagnosed again, this time with prostate cancer. Electing for another tumor removal, Jack underwent his second surgery. With the help of his family and the Upstate staff, he was able to stay positive throughout his treatments.

"Volunteering has allowed me to help others," said Jack. "I love listening to patient stories and being able to tell my own. I believe it eases some of their discomfort."

Like many survivors, Jack feels positivity and support is essential during the treatment process and cancer recovery.

"Prevail, that is what my daughter and Upstate's staff told me during my treatments; what I told myself and that is what I tell others now," said Edgerton. "There is hope. You can fight this. Prevail."