Daniel Chen is a fourth-year in the College of Arts & Sciences. He is in the interdisciplinary neuroscience program and plans to attend medical school this year. His volunteer work focuses on providing UVA students with service-learning opportunities. He serves as the co-president of the Brain Exercise Initiative (BEI) UVA Chapter, a Madison House Medical Services Program Director, and the founder of a mission partnership of Friendship Bench (FB) of Zimbabwe in Charlottesville.
What led you to your service work?
I was kind of raised in the world of patient care because my mom was a nurse for a senior living community. She brought me into her workplace, and for many years, I "volunteered" at the memory care unit. I essentially grew up with many of the residents, and I found it really gratifying to be there for these seniors. Being a person for others has been a term I learned recently. I imagine this could probably be applied to me because my childhood seemed to be spent more on service rather than play. I never felt comfortable spending too much time focusing on myself, so really, volunteering has always been a home away from home, or safe space if you will.
What has been the most rewarding aspect that comes with your community involvements?
Listening to stories, whether from my fellow volunteers or the recipients of the service, has always been what I most enjoyed from my community involvements. Connecting with people and hearing about different backgrounds has always made volunteer work much less like work but a fun and enjoyable pastime.
How has the virtual transition affected your involvements? Has your definition of service remained the same?
The pandemic has unfortunately stopped our work in the Brain Exercise Initiative as the Charlottesville senior living communities were busy fighting COVID-19. Going virtual has given me more time to focus on helping BEI and FB become official UVA CIOs as well as expand partnerships. Setting us up to be better prepared for the future and making larger community engagement moves has been a joy with my executive teams. Service is not just limited to helping people in person, but can take on the form of leadership, even virtually, for community projects that benefit society.
How would you encourage others to get involved?
I think the values and experiences you gain from community service are irreplaceable. Not to mention that they can be applied to your future growth and career.
What has been the greatest class you have taken at UVA?
Definitely GNUR 5390 "Overview of the U.S. Health Care System." Professor Mayes is an incredible lecturer, and his class completely changes and expands your view of healthcare.
What is your favorite UVA tradition?
It's a tough choice between Trick-or-Treating on the Lawn or Lighting of the Lawn. I have such great memories with a lot of my best friends from both of them. I love kids but also the vibes of Christmas, but if I were to choose one, I think LOTL is just too unique of a UVA tradition to sleep on.
If you could do one thing to make the world a better place, what would it be?
Social justice, which I hope can be translated to a lot of other places, like equitable education, health care, and opportunities.