Hospital Volunteer Keeps on Giving to Help Utah Medical Students
Eunice Kronstadt was a volunteer Patient Advocate at the University of Utah Hospital for 17 years, starting when she was 72 years old. She retired in 2009 after providing 7,075 hours of service, and she says it was "one of the most rewarding experiences of my life." Lori Tavey, Volunteer Coordinator for the University Hospital, says “Eunice was a wonderful volunteer for the Hospital, she took her responsibility to the patients and staff very seriously. Always arriving on time, she was professional and thorough in her duties.”
One of Mrs. Kronstadt's favorite aspects of her work was the training of young volunteers, many of whom aspired to become doctors. She was exhilarated by how bright, ambitious, compassionate and energetic they were. She treasures a folder that contains dozens of letters she received from pre-med students expressing their appreciation and affection for her.
When Mrs. Kronstadt began her work as a Patient Advocate, she had not had a job outside the home for 45 years. She was thrilled to be back in the "workforce" again, and she regarded her work as highly professional, even though she didn't accept payment. It required considerable tact and discretion as well as organizational skills.
Since she volunteered two and a half days per week, she got dressed up and drove to the U. in rush-hour traffic three days a week. When her daughter Sylvia asked her how she could stand the frantic commute, she replied, "I love it! It's wonderful to be out in the real world again -- with all of us going to work together. I am thrilled to be a part of it."
Mrs. Kronstadt was gratified to be able to help patients, hear their stories, and be an advocate for them. She developed a great respect for the nurses and thought of them as the real heroes of patient care. She also was moved by the dignity and dedication of the orderlies and the cleaning and maintenance staff. The University Hospital became almost like a second life to Mrs. Kronstadt, where she developed a whole new world of skills, friends and experiences.
She was the oldest volunteer at the University Hospital, retiring at age 90. She had to walk all around the hospital to do her job, but after a 15-minute nap at home, she was ready to get back to her household duties. Lori Tavey reminisces that “Eunice may have been the eldest volunteer chronologically, but none matched her energy and quick smile. She trained many young volunteers and was well respected by each of them. When the hospital decided the patient advocate role should be a responsibility of the nurse managers, Eunice made the decision to retire. She is missed.”
Mrs. Kronstadt was so inspired by her experiences at the hospital that she recently made a $100,000 gift to create five medical scholarships per year for the next five years. The Kronstadts have established scholarships in not only Medicine but Chemistry as well.
Mrs. Kronstadt and her husband, who died last year, were products of the Great Depression, so frugality was a well-entrenched lifestyle. Mrs. Kronstadt knew how to live in an enriched way while still being thrifty. The Kronstadt's economic goals were: to put all three daughters through college, to not be a financial burden to their children as they grew older, and finally- to leave money for scholarships to help needy students obtain a higher education.
Mrs. Kronstadt essentially designed her own home in the 1960s and had an architect draft the plans. It remains modern and progressive to this day. It is filled with light, art and music. Now 92, Eunice also loves to garden and has quite the green thumb. Sylvia calls her mother’s garden a “tropical paradise of herbs, flowers, greens and vegetables.” Eunice can be seen tossing seeds into the wind in the late winter, and everything springs up in a beautiful array of color and texture. She has already been out this year, braving the rain and snow, to start her garden. Eunice loves harvesting her beautiful organic produce and delivering “gift bags” to her daughters and neighbors. Some of Eunice’s other passions include gourmet cooking, politics, entrepreneurship, books, jazz and classical music.
Mrs. Kronstadt is privileged to be able to help deserving students to pursue their studies at the University of Utah School of Medicine and the Chemistry Department.
Written by: Tawnja S. Carballo
University of Utah Health Sciences Development