He’s one of the smartest — and unquestionably one of the nicest — people to be found inside Baptist Health Fort Smith, according to many individuals.
Sherjeel Naeem is a 16-year-old Greenwood High School student who is spending many of his summer hours as a volunteer in Baptist Health’s annual Caring Teen Program, which has area teenagers ages 14-18 offering their time and talents to help perform various duties in numerous departments and areas in June and July. He is spending the bulk of his Tuesdays and Thursdays volunteering in the hospital’s Gastroenterology department, working and learning alongside Dr. Hrair Simonian and other Baptist Health staff members.
And Naeem’s smile, voice and nature have been described as “kind,” “much appreciated” and “definitely needed” by numerous Baptist Health employees. Naeem and more than 30 other volunteers in the summer program are helping Baptist Health to run in an efficient manner that is welcoming to patients and staff alike, said Toni Holohan, a volunteer manager for Baptist Health.
“Sherjeel is a very smart kid,” she said. “He is a great volunteer here, and he does a great job.”
Set to begin his senior year at Greenwood High School in August, Naeem is keeping busy at Baptist Health by filling out paperwork, managing files and more.
“I’ve always wanted to go into the medical field,” said Naeem, who previously lived in Fresno, Calif., and is the son of Naeem Sabir and Shahida Shafquat of Greenwood. “Both of my parents have medical backgrounds.
“My parents emigrated from Pakistan to come here,” he added. “My father, before he left Pakistan, was a doctor, and my mother worked as a medical assistant for over a decade. I guess the medical field has always been something that has inspired me.”
A few seconds later, Naeem took out his cellphone and activated its flashlight in an effort to help a visitor locate her lost eye contact on the floor. A few minutes later, he wished happy birthday to a Baptist Health employee in the hospital’s gastroenterology department.
“Sherjeel really is this nice; he’s my best friend,” said Ramsey Pate, who is a high school intern at Baptist Health and is the daughter of Holly Pate of Greenwood. “I actually am an intern here because of Sherjeel. I saw a photo of the Caring Teen participants, and Sherjeel was in the photo. He’s a great friend.”
This is Naeem’s second summer to serve in the Caring Teen Program. Last year, his volunteer experiences involved getting patients around the hospital and to and from vehicles via wheelchairs, and he was named Baptist Health’s “Volun-Teen of the Year” in 2018 for his dedication and abilities.
“It is so unique,” Naeem said of the Caring Teen Program, which formerly was known as the Candy Striper Program. “I don’t think there are many programs like this in this area — actually, I don’t think there are many like this in the country — where you get to see health care the way is actually is.
“And I’ve been able to watch surgeries,” he added. “This year, it’s colonoscopies and scopes. It’s more procedure work and what goes on that I’m experiencing. It’s more the business side of things.”
Naeem said he has been impressed with both the technology and the skills of the staff at Baptist Health.
“It’s amazing what they can do now without having to cut someone open,” Holohan said.
Naeem said the Caring Teen Program was as varied as the services offered at Baptist Health.
“I’m interested in history, but a lot of people expect kids in the STEM program to have only one interest,” he said. “But there are so many areas where people can volunteer here, and there’s so many areas one can work. You don’t have to do just medicine 24/7 here.”
Teenagers interested in volunteering next year or needing other information regarding the Caring Teen Program can call (479) 441-5555.
“We get with the schools in February and accept applications,” Holohan said. “The enrollment deadline for students is February 28, and they have letters of recommendation. They are screened, just like employees here are.
“And we had 54 teenagers apply for this summer,” she added. “Those who didn’t make it this time have to reapply to possibly participate later in the program.”
When asked if Naeem was a model member of the Caring Teen Program, Holohan answered within two seconds.
“Yes,” she said while nodding. “I would hire Sherjeel right now, today, to work here, if I could. Yes, I would that.”