By Michael Boo
Cameron Belding marched in the WGI Indoor Percussion line from E. D. White Catholic High School of Thibodaux, Louisiana for the past four years, playing synthesizer the first year and fourth (bottom) bass drum the past three years. He just graduated as valedictorian of his senior class.
For almost two years, he has felt a calling to volunteer at Thibodaux Regional Medical Center, a hospital near his home. Most of his time there has been split between helping out in the pharmacy and the cancer center, the latter of which has been the influencing factor in his decision to become an oncologist to do what he can to help cancer patients lead better lives.
For about four hours a day on days he was free of his various school activities, he greeted patients, assisted nurses, and assisted in the cancer center pharmacy where chemotherapy and other related drugs were prepared. He also brought chemotherapy patients anything they might need, such as food, water, and blankets. It was serving the patients that opened his eyes to their needs and helped him form a bond with them and their families.
Cameron recounts, “Since so many patients came in for regular treatments, it wasn’t long before I knew them by name and how they took their coffee. I saw some patients beat the disease and others succumb to it. I saw doctors, nurses, and staff care for their patients in a way no TV medical drama can reproduce, expressing Thibodaux Regional Medical Center’s motto, ‘Patient Centered Excellence.’
“Volunteering was the kind of experience that taught me to care more for others than I do about myself. It honestly made me a better person.”
For Cameron, one of the gratifying elements of working at the cancer center was seeing the resolve and strength in the eyes of every patient, and rejoicing with them in their small and large successes. He was especially touched when one of the regular patients asked him to be there for the ceremonial ringing of a bell that proclaimed she was cured from the disease.
Just as participating in WGI activities changes its members, his experiences at the cancer center has made Cameron vow that he will never become a doctor who focuses on statistics and dollar signs. Rather he wishes to emulate the doctors he’s seen “having caring conversations with their patients or actually listening when nurses made suggestions about a patient’s care.”
He is determined to apply that sensitivity in his future medical career as well as his daily life, inspired by a quote by poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” He admits that the quote “may seem like a far reach from a measly hospital volunteer, but perhaps if we all lived this way, the world would be a better place.”
In the interest of keeping busy now that he’s graduated from high school, he’s going to be spending the summer marching baritone horn with the new Louisiana Stars Drum and Bugle Corps. And in the fall, he enters Nicholls State University, pursuing a Biology/Pre-Medicine degree. He hopes to one day become the kind of doctor who cares for his patients’ needs as much as he cures them.