Having a robust volunteer program is just one of the ways Alameda Health System is transforming healthcare. It gives AHS a chance to cultivate the young minds of the future and build a deeper connection with the community. AHS has volunteers of all ages but the majority of them are students on a path towards a career in the health field. Last year 50 previous student volunteers became AHS staff and Rebecca Falik, M.D., is one of them.
“I’m very excited to be an official member of the AHS community,” said Falik, the lead physician in the new AHS Pelvic Pain and Endometriosis Clinic. Falik is an obstetrician/gynecologist who specializes in laparoscopy for endometriosis excision and other complex gynecologic conditions.
Originally from Berkeley, she developed a passion for the Spanish language in the 3rd grade. She pursued her studies further by checking out Spanish language tapes from the library long before Rosetta Stone became a household name. At Berkeley High School, she took classes for native Spanish speakers as a way to continue to challenge herself.
At 16, she spent a summer volunteering doing public health work in Honduras but the following year her parents suggested a change. “My parents were happy I was thinking globally, but they also wanted me to realize there was a way for me to contribute locally,” said Falik.
At 17, she volunteered with the language interpreter services department at Alameda Health System-Highland Hospital. She remembers shadowing one of the interpreters in the OB/GYN department and using her Spanish language skills to explain to a patient that the doctors were going to perform fibroid removal surgery. “I thought, wow this is profound. I’m part of the team that’s helping to make a woman’s life livable again.”
Falik received her bachelor’s at Yale. After graduation, she was a bilingual Spanish-English kindergarten teacher in the Bronx with Teach for America, an organization that is committed to teaching in low-income schools.
When she was certain she wanted to become a doctor, she completed her premed studies at Mills College. She studied medicine at University of California, San Francisco where she was a part of the Program in Medical Education for the Urban Underserved or PRIME-US. After completing her four-year OB/GYN residency at Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara, she then had a fellowship in Endometriosis and Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery at Stanford.
It should come as no surprise, given her history, that she brought her specialty training back to AHS. “I think that the spirit of volunteerism and giving back, while always learning, is something I brought with me and was able to nurture at a young age as a Highland volunteer,” said Falik. “It continues to be what I bring with me every day to work with my patients now as a physician at Highland.”
Falik is happy she’s back in the Bay. “I enjoyed my time on the East Coast, however, there really is no place like home. My roots are here, it is a very special place.”
Cheers for Volunteers
April 15-21, 2018 is National Volunteer Week. In 2017 AHS had almost 400 volunteers.
“Having volunteers at AHS helps strengthen our organization’s mission. Last year our volunteers contributed approximately 51,000 volunteer hours. This significant time commitment helps to augment the services we offer, while providing volunteers with valuable personal and professional growth opportunities,” said Jason Pokorny, manager of AHS’ volunteer program.
“In 2017 alone, 36 of our student volunteers were accepted into college healthcare programs. It is wonderful to watch them achieve their educational goals. We know many of them choose to come back to work at AHS because of their experience as volunteers.”
AHS volunteers work on a variety of tasks that can include staffing the information desk, answering questions, stocking supplies, doing lab runs, performing EKGs in the emergency department and most importantly, providing patient care and comfort; talking with and being a listening ear to patients.