Stopping to spend a year in the cornfields of the Midwest between undergrad and medical school doesn’t seem like the most exciting or appealing post-grad choice to everyone, but our Volunteers know beautiful opportunities when they see them. Brittany Dymm is a medical school bound LVC17 Volunteer this year serving in Omaha, NE at Hospice House – The Josie Harper Residence. Brittany is a recent graduate from the University of Notre Dame where she studied Biochemistry and Anthropology, and saw a service year with LVC as an opportunity for reflection and spiritual growth before applying for school.
Brittany is serving as this year as the Volunteer Coordinator at Hospice House, managing around 70 volunteers that support Hospice House on a weekly to monthly basis. Hospice House is an in-patient hospice facility whose mission is to embrace both residents living with terminal illnesses, as well as their families and friends with “compassionate care and comfort”, while also providing end-of-life education to the Hospice House and Omaha communities. Brittany’s role within the organization spans a wide variety of responsibilities. When asked about her role, Brittany shared, “I maintain a monthly calendar of [volunteer’s] schedules as well as organizing enrichment activities for the residents of Hospice House. I primarily call in Pet Therapy, the Omaha Chamber Music Society, and other groups that provide a monthly community meal for the residents and their families. I help out the other administrative staff with various tasks, and I am constantly learning from the clinical staff about the realities of healthcare.” Brittany understands that her work for Hospice House has renewed an appreciation for the real service that volunteers provide to a nonprofit. She shared, “I always appreciated non-profits and service work, though I never understood all the hard work and countless volunteer hours it takes to keep an organization running every year. We need to be more willing to give more of ourselves to causes that are very important to us.”
A year with LVC primarily functions around our three core practices that we ask Volunteers to participate in: social justice work, simple & sustainable living, and intentional community. Brittany said that of the three core practices of LVC, social justice so far as been the most significant for her throughout the year. “I learned a lot about social justice in my Anthropology classes at Notre Dame, but it is a whole other thing to be in a position where your actions are affecting the way people live (and die). My placement provides the same exact care for people who can afford to pay the full daily rate and for people who rely on Medicaid or who cannot afford to pay at all. We believe that every single person has dignity and worth, and they deserve to die in that manner.” Brittany believes that health care justice is essential part of the work of social justice. “Trying to break the cycle of poverty and negative health outcomes is a never-ending task, but every person you are able to help out makes a difference.”
A Changed Perspective
Believe it or not, one of the things we love most about having Volunteers in Omaha, Nebraska is the chance for a changed perspective. During the application process, some folks think that small, midwestern towns like Omaha won’t be interesting or fun – but after a year in urban Nebraska, some Volunteers change their minds. Brittany expressed struggling with the transition into work and Omaha, but that her house community has been a source of joy for her throughout the year. “I have found joy in not only my job being so rewarding but also living in a house with people who have a shared mission of giving back to others and trying to instill these values into our core beliefs…Family dinners are huge for me. Meal time is the best and easiest way to get people together. It has also been fun trying out new recipes and being very intentional about the food we buy as a house.” Another realistic part of one’s year is to realize the transition into adulthood doesn’t always come with built in time for friends and fun. Brittany said, “I have struggled with feeling like a boring person who works all the time then comes home and does nothing fun. After a mid-year crisis, I made a commitment to find more fun and free things to do around Omaha and our neighborhood.”
After asking if Brittany had anything else to share more specifically about her year, Brittany opened up about how she ended up with LVC in the first place.
“This year after college for me was less planned than I had hoped. I did not originally want to do the “gap year” thing in between undergraduate studies and medical school. However, as the deadline for taking the MCAT junior year approached, I did not think I was ready to jump right into four more years of school. I began to more deeply think about doing a year of service. I saw it as a really good option for personal growth and as a good way to prove to medical schools that I was a committed applicant. Little did I know it would change me very deeply and open my eyes to the kind of person I want to be. I have done so much reflection this year based off my experiences in hospice care. I have learned to appreciate every second with another person as the gift that it is to have known them. I no longer get deeply discouraged when I get close to a patient to only see them die a week later. I know this year has shaped the person I am and the physician I will be. (Thankfully medical schools acknowledged this as well, so I will be Dr. Brittany in just four years time!)”
Brittany hails originally from Michigan. She loves her ukulele, animals, the sun, her family, and above all else, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. She will be attending Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha in the fall. She knows she always has a Home-aha in Omaha!