By Kate Hunger
When Sandy Montelongo volunteers with burn patients and their families, she understands firsthand what they are going through. Montelongo was burned as a small child and endured several surgeries and years of treatment for her injuries.
“I didn’t have a lot of programs when I was severely burned,” Montelongo explained of her motivation for helping others find the resources they need. “It doesn’t feel like work for me.”
The occupational therapy student received the BAMC Office of Volunteer Services Volunteer of the Year for 2017 in an April ceremony.
“I was really excited – I just couldn’t believe it,” she said of her reaction to learning of the honor. “BAMC is a big deal—they take care of our soldiers and the military. They fly them from all over the world to take care of them.”
Montelongo has volunteered for hundreds of hours with a number of organizations, including the BAMC Red Cross in the SAMMC ICU burn unit, the Texas Burn Survivor Society, University Hospital’s newborn nursery, NICU and Child Life, and a summer camp for pediatric burn survivors.
Montelongo provides excellent support in her role as a volunteer, according to a statement from the burn unit volunteer coordinator in support of her nomination for the BAMC award.
“She offers support to the patients by letting them know that she has been there, understands the pain and the emotions, and helps them sort through the tough spots. The support that she offers the Unit, the other volunteers, the families and the patients is irreplaceable, as she blesses everyone she meets with her time and her message.”
In addition to the BAMC award, Montelongo also has been selected to receive the School of Health Professions Student Community Service Award, to be presented at the Student Government Awards Nights on April 26.
Montelongo’s first career was in marketing, but she chose to make occupational therapy her second career because she wants to help people regain their independence.
“It thrives in it and I connect in it,” she said.
Montelongo begins her fieldwork this summer.
“I want to specialize in burns,” she said. “My goal would be to work in a burn unit.”
Department faculty Kimatha Oxford Grice, OTD, OTR, CHD, associate professor said Montelongo’s volunteer service far exceeds the service hours required in the occupational therapy program.
“She does that because she wants to, not because of any requirement,” said Grice, Montelongo’s faculty adviser. “I think she has a real passion.”