The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference
The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference

Learning Through Volunteering

123 days ago
Florida Athletics
Photo: Florida Athletics

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -Bair Diamond knew his 2019-20 academic year would be a demanding one. What third-year College of Medicine student wouldn't understand that, right? Third-years are required to cycle through seven clinical clerkships spanning different fields - pediatrics, internal medicine, surgery, family medicine, neurology, psychology, obstetrics and gynecology - before moving to the residency phase.

But Diamond (like everyone on the planet) had his routine turned upside in March when the Covid-19 pandemic took over. Scramble mode ensued. So did online classes.

Around that time, UF Health created a service called Gator Sitters to pair with hospital staffers in need of child care, pet care or household duties with student volunteers. Diamond, a former walk-on tight end for the Florida football team, signed up.

Bair Diamond volunteers as a baby-sitter for Elsie (left) and Ruby (right), while their parents, Drs. Casey and Stacy Beal, are on call. He was dispatched to baby-sit two girls, ages 4 and 1, whose parents are doctors at Shands. That duty, for the most part, went off without a hitch.

But then last week Diamond was sent to help a second-year med student; a single-parent with 7- and 10-year-old sons.

The experience opened his eyes, in ways that were as humbling as they were admiring.

"I walked into their home and the organized chaos ... it was incredible," Diamond said. "She's studying for the same board exams that I took last year, but doing so in these hectic conditions, raising two kids who want attention and want to be active. I was really in awe of her. As great as it was to be with those [other] two girls, I knew they were going to be OK. This person, though, was in uncharted waters, having to study for the biggest test you'll ever have to take if you want to be a doctor, and doing a balancing act with these two kids. It was really amazing and I was glad to be able to help."

It was yet another example - one of countless in the UF community - of sacrifice during these uncertain times. Senior Day 2015 Diamond, at the onset of the pandemic shutdown, also was part of a team of students dispatched to The Villages to assist in COVID screenings. And he joined a group, organized by one of his fellow third-years, that partnered with Meridian Behavioral Health Care of Gainesville to seek out area homeless to educate them on COVID, provide resources (non-perishable goods, for example) and, in some cases, even test them.

"I've been really impressed by our class, with students in general, in the way they've stepped up to volunteer from the jump. They were quick to do it and did a great job organizing everyone," he said. "It's been nice to be able to do something helpful and useful. And it's a lot more fun than sitting at home and studying all the time. ... The projects I've been involved with have been good."

Rewarding, as well.

Diamond, 26, came to UF from Fort Myers and was a walk-on for coaches Will Muschamp and Jim McElwain during the 2012-15 seasons. He saw action in only two games, both blowouts against overmatched foes (Eastern Michigan and New Mexico State) and only for a few snaps in each. Though Diamond was among a handful of players who were placed on scholarship heading into the '15 season for a team that reached the Southeastern Conference Championship Game, his career highlight did not come in the fall.

It was that game-tying touchdown pass he caught in the final seconds of the 2014 Orange & Blue Spring Game.

As for Diamond and his academic work, Friday was to be the final day of his third year, but the timeline has been pushed back, albeit if only slightly. The college will afford those students in similar positions extra time in their fourth year to finish the clinical clerking. Diamond remains on schedule to graduate in May 2021, with the goal of being a pediatrician.

"They're making it as simple as possible to get caught up, given the circumstances," he said.

People like Diamond are making it as bearable as possible, while also getting a dose of perspective.

"I've been inconvenienced, for sure," he said. "But it's been really eye-opening to see how disruptive something like this can be for people who are less fortunate or in a different school or work situation. I'm grateful for that."