Volunteer Spotlight: Laboratory Expert

Volunteer Spotlight: Mary Jo Bonifas

When Mary Jo Bonifas retired in 2013 after a 40-year career in laboratory science, she knew she wanted to contribute philanthropically using her skills as an experienced laboratory scientist. She connected with HHI program manager Carla Orner through a professional association and learned about Heart to Heart International’s extensive global laboratory work. It was then Mary Jo knew exactly where she wanted to direct her volunteer efforts upon retirement. Drawing from those many years at BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company), she works tirelessly from her home in Iowa and is involved with laboratory site visits, setting up laboratories, preparing materials and more. Thank you to Mary Jo for her incredible efforts and countless hours of work towards our mission.

Q&A with Mary Jo:

What projects have you worked on as a volunteer for HHI? 

I was introduced to HHI and their wonderful work through Heart to Heart International employee Carla Orner when we served on the Clinical Laboratory Management Association (CLMA) Board of Directors together. My HHI volunteer projects have all been related to HHI’s work nationally and internationally in the clinical laboratory area, primarily the collaborative effort with Becton Dickeson (BD) providing Point of Care Testing to safety net clinics. I worked on the team to review applications and select grant winners, doing site visits and traveling to the sites to do the set up of the laboratories. In the current time of COVID-19 with travel not possible, I’ve worked on several projects with HHI preparing training materials for BD in India and Africa.

Why do you think these are important?

The collaborative efforts of BD and HHI to provide laboratory testing to safety net clinics throughout the United States provides critical services to the country’s most underserved and uninsured people and communities in the country. Both nationally and internationally, it is critical to do as much as possible to improve the quality of medical care and increase access to critical services like laboratory testing.

What made you want to start volunteering?

As I prepared to retire, I felt very strongly about giving back to the clinical laboratory field. I have always been proud of my career in the clinical laboratory and wanted to share that knowledge and expertise with others. My first volunteer effort was serving as an ASCP (American Society of Clinical Pathology) Ambassador with Global Health Initiatives. With ASCP, I traveled to Kyrgyzstan and Tanzania helping to improve the quality of laboratory operations with a goal a meeting the WHO Laboratory Accreditation Standards. My volunteer efforts with HHI continue to provide me with the opportunity to continue to share my knowledge and expertise, both nationally and internationally. For this I am extremely grateful.

How has your experience been volunteering with HHI?

Serving as an HHI volunteer is one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I am so impressed with all of the HHI people I have met and worked with and I hope to have the opportunity to do even more.

What is it about the Heart to Heart International’s cause that is inspiring?

Reading about all the good HHI continues to do both nationally and internationally inspires me to get involved with HHI projects as well as with other opportunities to give back.  (I recently joined Rotary International.)

What do you tell your friends/family about Heart to Heart International and why you volunteer?

I’m always happy to share with family, friends and past co-workers about my HHI experiences and continue to share the HHI story and promote HHI efforts. I also always encourage them to donate to HHI.

What is your biggest takeaway from your volunteer experiences?

Helping others in need can be transformational for them, but it can also be transformational for those of us who volunteer. My volunteer work with HHI has made me feel as if I’ve actually had a small part impacting the world of Laboratory Medicine around the globe.

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