When Mark Tanchanco, D.M.D., started his residency at Wilmington Hospital in July 2022 after graduating from Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in Boston, he felt right at home.

There was good reason for that — Tanchanco, a native Delawarean who graduated from Appoquinimink High School, was home. As a teenager, Tanchanco also spent two summers in ChristianaCare’s VolunTeen program, volunteering with the Physical Therapy, Interventional Radiology and Patient Escort departments at Christiana Hospital.

Mark Tanchanco, D.M.D.

In addition to offering valuable exposure to health care, volunteering helped him to understand the importance of making a connection with people, whether it’s with a smile, a nod or a simple conversation.

Find volunteer opportunities at ChristianaCare for adults, teens and college students here.

“Being from Delaware and having gone through dental school, I knew I wanted to come back,” Tanchanco said. “It was really gratifying to return and give back to the community that molded me.”

Volunteers are a vital resource for ChristianaCare, bringing valuable talent and perspective as well as a shared sense of commitment to serve our neighbors with love and excellence, said Margarita Rodriguez-Duffy, MSW, CAVS, director of Visitor, Volunteer and Pastoral Services in Patient Experience.

“We have volunteers in our emergency departments, greeting people at the front desks, escorting patients and helping them get them to where they need to go. They are in offices and units across ChristianaCare. Their work benefits our entire health care system,” she said.

In fiscal year 2022, 538 volunteers provided 41,058 hours of service across the system. Through the years, volunteers like Tanchanco have been motivated by their experience to pursue a career in health care.

Read on for some of their stories.

Casey Bedder, D.O.

Casey Bedder, D.O.

Obstetrician/Gynecologist, Christiana Hospital

Casey Bedder, D.O., was a grade-schooler barely in double digits when she started volunteering in ChristianaCare’s Postpartum Unit through the VolunTEEN program. Her family hoped she’d find something to keep her busy in the summer. Not only did she stay busy, Bedder also discovered her vocation, buoyed by the support of nurses and physicians who gave of their time to mentor a promising young volunteer.

“When I saw my first delivery in the operating room as a volunteer, I knew that was exactly what I wanted to do.”

— Casey Bedder, D.O.

“Many of the people I met along the way, I wanted to be just like them. They were just amazing and treated me like part of the team. The nurses on that floor really pushed to give me opportunities. When I saw my first delivery in the operating room as a volunteer, I knew that was exactly what I wanted to do,” said Bedder, who continued to volunteer with ChristianaCare throughout high school.

Bedder credits volunteering with broadening her understanding of health care. As a volunteer, she learned how to put charts together and read a fetal monitor. She also answered call bells and changed beds.

And when she graduated from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, she knew where she wanted to go for residency — that familiar place that encouraged her when she was just a curious kid looking for something to do in the summer.

In 2012, a year after completing her residency at ChristianaCare, Bedder was named medical director of the Postpartum Unit, the very place she started as a volunteer. She also serves as associate program director for the OB/GYN residency program at ChristianaCare.

“Volunteering and helping the nurses had a secondary effect because it showed me a different perspective in taking care of this population that I may not have ever seen as a physician,” Bedder said. “Having that nursing perspective has been invaluable.”

Advice to volunteers: “There isn’t a job too big or too small for any one individual. To this day, if the phone is ringing and no one is there to answer it, I’m going to answer it. It’s all because of my volunteer training. I’m able to pitch in as part of the team because I had that experience from the get-go.”

Volunteer becomes colleague: Tanchanco with Jeffrey Cole, DDS, and Kenneth Roll, DDS.

Mark Tanchanco, D.M.D.

General Practice Dentistry Resident, Wilmington Hospital

In dental residency, Mark Tanchanco, D.M.D., has learned to expect the unexpected. At Wilmington Hospital, where he is part of the resident team providing care, Tanchanco sees patients with dental emergencies like broken teeth and abscesses, as well as those needing more routine treatments like exams and cleanings.

“Try things out and talk to as many people as possible. Get the mentorship and make those connections.”

— Mark Tanchanco, D.M.D.

“We do a little of everything,” he said. “Residency gives us the opportunity to branch out and expand the breadth of our skills to be a general dentist.”

These days, Tanchanco is ready for the unexpected hurdles that may cross his path. It’s a skill he first learned in 2010 in the VolunTEEN program.

“Volunteering really showed me what I didn’t know in health care. I got to rotate through different areas of the hospital, like Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy and Patient Escort, and really experience firsthand what it means for patients,” he said.

Advice to volunteers: “Keep your options open. You might think you want to do something initially. But when you try it you might be steered in another direction. What’s really important is to try things out and talk to as many people as possible. Get the mentorship and make those connections.”

Michael Calvarese

Michael Calvarese

Patient Escort Supervisor, Christiana Hospital

Michael Calvarese started at ChristianaCare as a 14-year-old volunteer looking for something to do other than play video games during summer break. After three years of volunteering through the VolunTEEN program, Calvarese was offered a part-time job as a patient escort.

Michael Calvarese as a VolunTEEN in 2007

He’s going into his 17th year as a ChristianaCare caregiver, now working as a day shift supervisor in Patient Escort. Calvarese supervises more than 30 caregivers who make sure patients are picked up and transported to their destination following their discharge.

Adding in his time as a volunteer, it’s been nearly 20 years of patient service, and it never gets old for Calvarese, who still enjoys the opportunity to help patients get back to their lives at home.

“You’re always helping people at the end of their time here, so you know it’s important for that to be a good experience,” he said.

“A couple times, I just happened to be in a random store and somebody I discharged recognized me and said, ‘Oh, you were so nice. Thank you for taking me out.’

“That feedback really makes me want to continue here.”

Advice to volunteers: “You can make a difference as a volunteer. It’s true that five to 10 minutes, or however long you’re with a patient, really can impact them a lot.”

John Przybylski Jr.

John Przybylski Jr.

Physician Assistant, Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute

Growing up, John Przybylski Jr. imagined a career as a doctor or physician assistant (PA). But life took a detour and he became an award-winning hair stylist and operations manager for Michael Christopher Salon in Wilmington, Delaware. By the time he was 37, Przybylski was still drawn to a career in medicine, but he didn’t know where to start. A client gave him the name of the volunteer coordinator at Wilmington Hospital who connected him with the Emergency Department.

“I learned so much as a volunteer that I knew I wanted to be a PA.”

— John Przybylski Jr. 

“At the time, you had to commit to at least four hours a week. I spent as much time there as I could. All the physician assistants and the nurses got to know me. They would overhead page me to different rooms. I learned so much that I knew I wanted to be a PA,” he said.

Przybylski continued to volunteer with ChristianaCare while attending classes in Drexel University’s Physician Assistant program, he spent hundreds of hours volunteering, spending time in the Emergency Department, Pharmacy and other areas across the system.

“The volunteer organization here at ChristianaCare really gave me what I needed. I was an adult with a full-time job. And they really were able to guide me,” Przybylski said. “It was the hardest thing, honestly, I ever did in my life. I would get up in the morning, drive to the train station, catch a train to Philly, then go to school all day and catch the train back to Wilmington, get in my car and go to work.”

While rotating through the specialties, Przybylski found his niche.

“For 22 years, I was working with my hands cutting hair. I realized that I was meant to do surgery,” said Przybylski, who works as a surgical physician assistant under Stephanie Caterson, M.D., a reconstructive plastic surgeon who leads the collaborative breast reconstruction program at the Graham Cancer Center. Przybylski also holds an adjunct faculty position with Drexel University’s Physician Assistant program.

Advice to volunteers: “Don’t be afraid to try something, even if it’s a longer road. I couldn’t be happier in my career.”

Justin Rathmanner

Justin Rathmanner

Computer Support Analyst, Information Services

When Justin Rathmanner started in the VolunTeen program, it didn’t take him long to realize that ChristianaCare was an even bigger place than he thought. There were more departments, more patients and more places to find than he expected. But even in such a big organization, there were a lot of people who knew his mother, Beth Rathmanner, MSN, RN-BC who was then a nurse manager and now works as a clinical value analysis manager.

Last fiscal year, 538 volunteers provided 41,058 hours of service at ChristianaCare.

“I knew that whatever I did here I would have big shoes to fill as her son,” said Rathmanner, who volunteered for two years, mostly in Patient Escort.

Turns out, it wouldn’t be the last time he and his mom shared the workplace. After working in the information technology field for several years, Rathmanner returned to ChristianaCare 10 years ago. These days, he is part of the team overseeing the rollout of ChristianaCare systems on the Cecil County campus.

Rathmanner said the experience of being a volunteer and growing up with a long-time caregiver as a parent gave him a deep appreciation of what it means to be part of ChristianaCare.

“You realize pretty quickly that this is a great place to work,” he added.

Advice to volunteers: “Volunteering made me realize that I enjoy helping people. As a volunteer, it was helping people get to their car when they were discharged or helping the staff keep things clean. I’m helping in a different way now by assisting people with the technology they use and hopefully making their job easier. Watching the lightbulb go off for them, it’s the same feeling.”

Megha Patel

Megha Patel

Product Coordinator, Center for Women’s & Children’s Health

One of Megha Patel’s jobs while volunteering at Christiana Hospital in high school was tying blue and pink yarn to the top of the baby hats in the maternity department. It’s a nice memory from being a volunteer, but even better considering that Patel, now the product coordinator for the Center for Women’s & Children’s Health, is the caregiver in charge of ordering newborn hats.

“Don’t let the fact that it’s competitive discourage you from applying for a volunteer position. Keep trying!”

— Megha Patel

“We don’t have baby hats like that anymore, but it’s nice to think about having that kind of a connection to a place,” said Patel, who also volunteered with ChristianaCare during college and while she was looking for a job after graduating from the University of Delaware.

Over the years, Patel volunteered in several departments across ChristianaCare, including Pharmacy, Maternity and Surgical Services. The experience gave her a behind-the-scenes look at the health system, one that helped her crystallize what she likes most about working in health care.

“I like being that go-to person for everyone. Whether it’s getting them the supply they need or working with a vendor, you’re helping to keep everything moving,” Patel said.

Advice to volunteers: “Don’t let the fact that it’s competitive discourage you from applying for a volunteer position. Keep trying because it took me a while to get in, but I made it and I’m so glad I did.”

About Volunteering at ChristianaCare

ChristianaCare’s innovative volunteer programs have earned local and national recognition over the years, including its virtual reality program to help cancer patients undergoing treatment, offering a comforting presence at end of life in No One Dies Alone and building a bridge between caregivers and patients through its Living History storytelling project.

Although the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic put many volunteer opportunities temporarily on hold, there are plans later this year to restart some of those popular programs, said Rose Wessells, CAVS, manager of Volunteer Services.

“We’re always trying to find out what our patients need and what our caregivers need. Then, we ask: Is it possible to fill that gap with a volunteer resource? How do we create that?” she said.

Find volunteer opportunities at ChristianaCare for adults, teens and college students here.