VCU Honors College

The Honors Community

Chelsea Olson
Denver, Colo.
Spanish and a minor in chemistry

Chelsea Olson

As a Virginia Commonwealth University freshman honors student, Chelsea Olson started volunteering with the VCU Medical Center burn unit.

“I volunteered every Sunday morning and helped nurses with their duties,” Olson said. “I interacted with patients, especially small children when their parents were away from the hospital.”

Olson experienced firsthand accounts of doctor-patient and nurse-patient interactions and relationships while shadowing. As a volunteer, she observed and learned from the doctors as they performed wound care procedures.

“It has been a great experience that has amplified my passion for becoming a doctor,” Olson said.

As a high school student in Denver, Colo., she participated in volunteer opportunities as far away as Sierra Leone, Africa.

Olson saw how she could fill a need for medical education in the impoverished region. During two trips, she embraced the idea of a future in tropical medicine and infectious diseases.

“When I first went there, I really saw a need for first-aid education,” Olson said. “There are a lot of injuries that happen and become a serious problem because they don’t know how to take care of them properly. If they had more education, it could help save lives.”

Olson worked in clinics and gained more hands-on clinical skills. “It was a different type of health care and a different perspective that I had never seen before,” she said.

While in Sierra Leone, Olson also conducted research in the clinics and administered surveys to the country’s citizens. She found what she anticipated: the people needed and wanted first-aid education.

“One thing I’m sensitive about is being able to blend cultures because that is really important, especially when you are talking about native medicine and western medicine,” Olson said.

She plans to go back to Africa in the future and conduct more research and education to help the native people gain more access to medical care.

Volunteering has been a great experience that has amplified my passion for becoming a doctor.

Chelsea Olson