4/18/18

Badminton lover serves up selflessness in healthcare

Small acts of service make a big impact says Priyanka Bahel of Naperville. From donating blood to serving meals to the homeless, simply stocking shelves or transporting a patient, volunteering improves her day and mood. Sometimes, a little badminton does too.

Abby Brooks, student volunteer coordinator, said Bahel has an infectious passion.

“She just steps up and helps out,” Brooks said. “She is a gem.”

Serve Illinois Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service agrees.

Bahel received the 2018 East Central Illinois’ Adult Governor’s Volunteer Service Award for connecting 25-30 area high school students interested in healthcare careers to those in the profession.

As Carle Foundation Hospital’s student leader and student volunteer coordinator for Carle Health Advocacy Team (CHAT), Bahel leads a team of 25-30 youth who engage in learning about healthcare careers.

“Not everyone wants to be a doctor or a nurse,” she said.

Through CHAT, students explore opportunities in healthcare including Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Neonatal Intensive Care and Radiology.

She says volunteering recharges her batteries. The youth she mentors bring energy and enthusiasm to the health care environment.

“I love investing in young people, who are often overlooked, to build leadership skills and expose them to patient care at an early age,” Bahel said of providing pathways that open students’ eyes to the possibilities for their education.

CHAT showcases the teens’ abilities, knowledge and responsibility through presentations to their peers about diet, nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices.

“Priyanka acquires fantastic speakers and interactive demonstrations. She involves nurses, doctors and teens from different cultural backgrounds,” Brooks said.

Her dynamic leadership style appeals to the teens who attend and engages them with hands-on experiences such as using da Vinci robotic surgery equipment.

Bahel set her sights on medicine in third grade when medical devices on her kitchen table piqued her curiosity.

“My dad always had pacemakers and other gadgets sitting around. I asked questions. I wanted to understand how it all connected,” she said.

His influence and her mother’s encouragement guided her to help others. Fast forward 10 years, and that interest pulses through her veins.

The busy University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign sophomore majoring in Chemistry and Psychology is preparing for a medical career by shadowing doctors in Cardiology and Neonatology. 

She immersed herself in a health professions living and learning environment and takes advantage of opportunities like student leadership of CHAT.

Celebrating National Volunteer Week, April 15-21, by receiving this award humbles Bahel.

“I gained new perspectives while interacting with different population groups,” she said. “Volunteering has changed my life.”

For Bahel, an elevator ride with a patient’s husband, confirmed what she already knew – she belongs in healthcare.

“I’m grateful to be part of a place where we’re making a difference and improving lives,” she said.

Last year, more than 1,100 Auxiliary, college, hospice, teen and regional Carle volunteers donated 113,158 hours of service to staff and patients. To learn more, visit carle.org.