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Volunteer tells the story of those who care for sick, wounded

By: Shannon Sarino, National Museum of Health and Medicine

Lisa Weed loves to give a tour.

"If people are here, they really want to learn," she said. "And odds are, I’m going to learn something from the group, too. I feel like I get so much more than I give sometimes."

Weed has been a volunteer docent at the National Museum of Health and Medicine (NMHM) since 2011. This year, she was named NMHM 2013 Volunteer of the Year in a ceremony at Fort Detrick, Md., on April 17, 2014. In part, the award was recognition of the enthusiasm she brings to every volunteer opportunity at NMHM.

Volunteer docents provide education and interpretive support for NMHM’s programming. Docents support tours, outreach and family programs. Through NMHM’s educational programs, the museum inspires and promotes interest in the understanding of medicine—past, present and future—with a special emphasis on American military medicine. With a vast collection of more than 25 million objects and a diversity of visitors, volunteers at NMHM are provided with a unique and rewarding experience.

"I just love the museum," Weed said. "I retired and had a little free time, and I had a little knowledge about the things the museum has in its collections. It seemed like a good fit."

It has been a good fit, according to Gwen Nelmes, NMHM tour program coordinator and volunteer manager.

"Lisa is an enthusiastic and active member of the volunteer program at NMHM. Her curiosity for science and learning allows for insightful and creative dialogue between visitors and staff," Nelmes said. "Lisa's experience working in DNA labs gives her an opportunity to be an excellent subject matter expert in the museum's STEM initiatives. We are very fortunate to have her as a docent at the museum."

Weed is a retired forensic lab scientist who has worked as a quality management expert in a pharmaceutical company. She began her professional career, though, working in the blood bank at the then-Bethesda Naval Hospital (now Walter Reed National Military Medical Center).

In addition to her volunteer work with NMHM, Weed has recently begun volunteering for Team River Runner, a nonprofit that seeks to teach active-duty military personnel wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan to kayak. An avid kayaker, Weed said she is involved in practices at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda. This fall, through the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Weed will also begin working with students in grades three through five at a local elementary school to promote STEM education. The goal, she said, is to take retired professionals from the scientific community and plug them into the elementary schools to serve as mentors.

Despite her increased volunteer responsibilities, Weed said she plans to continue to dedicate time to NMHM as a docent, interpreting the museum’s collections to visitors.

"My favorite artifact in the museum would have to be the wall of the Balad Hospital," currently on display in an exhibit on advances in military medicine, she said. "I love the floor, but the wall with the scribbles and doodles of the medical professionals who served in Balad…we can’t forget them. They are the ones that care for our sick and wounded, and they are also heroes in every sense of the word."

If you are interested in military medicine, history or have a general love of museums, join NMHM as a volunteer docent! Candidates must be at least 21 years of age and have a flexible schedule. Volunteer open houses will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, from 1-2 p.m., and on Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014, from 1-4 p.m. Volunteer trainings will be held Oct. 6-10, 2014, from 9 a.m.-noon, and on Oct. 4, 2014, from 1-4 p.m. For more information, call 301-319-3312.

 

Caption: National Museum of Health and Medicine volunteer docents Andi Sacks (left) and Lisa Weed hold plastinated specimens used to demonstrate anatomy during the USA Science & Engineering Festival, held April 25-27, 2014, at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. The free festival focused on STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – related organizations and activities.