In our final Volunteer Spotlight of 2021, we spoke with Dr. Babs Waldman, who has been with CommunityHealth for over 20 years! Dr. Waldman is an integral part of the CommunityHealth team, serving as our Volunteer Medical Director in addition to seeing her own patients as a volunteer primary care provider. The Arnold L. Widen, MD Volunteer Legacy Award is a special award given out when a volunteer’s service is truly unparalleled. Named for Dr. Widen, it celebrates those who are foundational members of the CommunityHealth team, much like he has been. Dr. Widen is one of our earliest supporters, who not only saw his own patients, but also precepted residency programs and served on the board (on which he still sits today)! Dr. Waldman’s unwavering leadership during the first year of the pandemic was the particular impetus for this award, though she’s been earning it every year with her dedication to our mission, compassion for her patients, and unparalleled wit. Only two other volunteers have received this award – Milt Goodman and Dr. Jeffrey Mono – and we are thrilled to add Dr. Waldman to that list. Read on to learn more about her!
In a few sentences, tell us more about yourself and your background!
I have been around so long I think everyone knows my story. I went to Rush Medical College, then trained at Cook County Hospital and Evanston Hospital. I was in private practice for 23 years in Chicago and then in Evanston. I then worked at the Illinois Attorney General’s office for 5 ½ years doing health care fraud investigations. I started volunteering at CommunityHealth in 2000. I also have been involved with Rush Global Health & Community Empowerment doing global health work in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Is there a specific area of healthcare you are interested in or healthcare experiences you are seeking?
I still love primary care! I love getting to know the patients over time.
If you could have any superpower, which would you choose?
Not a superpower but I would love to be adept at Excel and data display apps.
Do you have any special talents/skills you’d like to share?
Once I was a really good figure skater and still am a good dancer.
Outside of volunteering with CommunityHealth, how do you like to spend your free time?
Walking, cooking, reading, cross country skiing, grandparenting.
What’s your favorite book or movie?
Movie – Walk the Line
Book (fiction) – Gentleman in Moscow
Book (nonfiction) – memoirs and biographies
What is something that not a lot of people know about you?
I hitchhiked across the country in 1969.
If you could be one animal, what would you be and why?
What does your ideal vacation look like?
Biking or hiking, exploring neighborhoods and local restaurants and cafes.
Why and how did you begin volunteering at CommunityHealth?
When I was planning to leave private practice in 1999 I happened to see an article in the paper about CommunityHealth. I was looking for opportunities to work with underserved communities. I couldn’t find the right phone number or address for the clinic so I ended up contacting the reporter who wrote the article to get the phone number. I started volunteering in 2000.
Do you remember your first day? What surprised you?
I absolutely remember my first visit to CommunityHealth as I met Dr. Serafino Garella that day. He is not someone you ever forget.
What has kept you volunteering all this time?
The culture of the organization, the amazing staff, the sense of satisfaction of caring for patients who are in need and are so appreciative, the opportunity to work with the next generation of medical providers, and the opportunity to creatively solve problems.
What is something you’ve learned from volunteering at CommunityHealth?
Never make assumptions about people and one should never stop learning.
Can you share an especially memorable moment working with a patient/fellow volunteer/staff member?
During my early days at CommunityHealth I was seeing a 70 year old woman from rural Mexico who recently had married a 50 year old man. When I asked her if she had any questions she asked, “Is it dangerous to have too much sex?” The interpreter and I responded without even a giggle, “No.”
There are too many memorable moments but two types of experiences always lift my spirits – the hugs and gratitude from patients and the return as licensed providers to CommunityHealth of previous students/trainees when they have completed their education and training.
Thank you Dr. Waldman for your incredible history of service, guidance throughout the pandemic, and everything you do for our patients and staff!