Chapel Hill resident Ann Kennedy began volunteering at North Carolina Memorial Hospital in the mid-1970s. She was working at the UNC School of Medicine at the time. A year earlier she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
"I wanted to reach out to other women who were faced with what I'd been faced with," said Kennedy. "That experience showed me that there was a need for these women -- an opportunity to help them. I thought that volunteering would be a good way to give back."
Kennedy has been volunteering at UNC Hospitals ever since -- for the past 25 years, her service has been with UNC Mammography.
"Patients receive support after the breast cancer diagnosis is made, but at the time of the mammogram, there is often no one available to sit with a patient who is terrified about facing an abnormal mammogram or biopsy that day," said Kathy Taylor, radiology imaging supervisor with UNC Mammography. "I can tell you that the fear is paralyzing for these women, even if it turns out to be benign. Ann has held the hands of many patients who have felt alone as they've anticipated hearing the words no one wants to hear. She lets each patient know that she is in good hands here at UNC. What an invaluable, kind service Ann provides to our patients."
When Kennedy is not attending to patients, she provides assistance for the technologists and clerical staff at UNC Mammography, allowing them to concentrate on taking care of patients. She also helps patients change for their exams, stocks rooms with laundry, runs errands, makes copies, chaperones male physicians, and helps patients navigate the facility.
Last week, Kennedy received the 2016 Elaine M. Hill Distinguished Service Award for her dedication to UNC Hospitals. The ceremony was held in the lobby of the N.C. Children's Hospital. Kennedy was joined by her daughter, Pam, and her son, Kenneth.
Linda Bowles, director of Volunteer Services, expressed her gratitude for Kennedy's contributions.
"As our breast cancer program began to evolve, Ann became very involved in making sure that there was someone there for these patients to talk to because it is a scary thing to hear that 'C' word -- you think that it happens to someone else and that it never happens to you," said Bowles. "Ann makes a huge difference. People who are coming back for their yearly evaluation will actually walk in the clinic and say to Ann, 'I'm so glad you're here today.' She remembers people and is so good to the staff -- she makes them brownies and cookies, she runs errands and does paperwork. If you could clone her, you'd have the best volunteer program in the world. She's been a great asset. We are so excited that Ann has joined the list of distinguished volunteers who have received this award."
Elaine M. Hill, director of Volunteer Services from 1967 to 1990, began service at N.C. Memorial Hospital by serving refreshments at the hospital's opening in 1952. During her years of service, Hill exemplified quality patient care. She was instrumental in implementing the playroom for pediatric patients in the late 1950s, among other contributions. In recognition of her leadership, in 1990 the UNC Health Care Board of Directors approved naming the annual distinguished volunteer award in her honor.
More photos from the 2016 Elaine M. Hill ceremony: