The 2023 North Carolina Governor’s Award for Volunteer Services were recently announced, and four volunteers with ECU Health have been recognized. The award honors the true spirit of volunteerism by recognizing individuals and groups who make a significant contribution to their community through volunteer service. The ECU Health award winners this year are Shantell McLaggan, Gaddamanugu Uma and Ed Chambers. Chad Tucker won the North Carolina Governor’s Award for Volunteer Service: Paid Volunteer Director.

Shantell McLaggan and Gaddamanugu Uma

Shantell McLaggan and Gaddamanugu Uma are third-year medical students at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University and North Carolina Schweitzer Fellows who have led the effort to train more than 60 health professional and undergraduate student volunteers to serve as doulas in ECU Health Medical Center’s Labor and Delivery Department.

The 2023 Governor’s Volunteer Service Award winners were recognized by the Pitt County Board of Commissioners during a recent meeting. The award winners are shown in a Pitt County government meeting room, posing for a photo.
Shantell McLaggan, second from left, and Gaddamanugu Uma, fourth from left, pose for a photo during a Pitt County Board of Commissioners meeting where 2023 Governor’s Volunteer Service Award winners were recognized.

Although the program had some initial growing pains, patient feedback about the program has remained appreciative and positive.

“Patients are always recommending our services to others who will give birth at ECU Health,” McLaggan said. “An unfortunate number of people go through the birthing process with little to no support, and our doulas have stepped up to alleviate that issue.”

Word of the program has spread, and they are receiving an increasing number of requests for doula support from mothers across eastern North Carolina.

“Our first cohorts of volunteers have grown into incredible role models for our newer doulas,” Uma said. “Now Shantell and I are focusing on securing the long-term sustainability of our program. We’re actively brainstorming innovative methods to enhance and optimize our services, aiming to amplify our impact and facilitate safe, empowering birth experiences for families in our community.”

Both McLaggan and Uma were surprised to be recognized with this award.

“Receiving this award was unexpected and humbling. It was nice to be recognized for our hard work and dedication to this community. Uma and I have always been passionate about women’s health and racial and social equity, and creating this program has meant a lot to us,” McLaggan said.

Uma cited the vast impact the program has made in a short time.

“When we began, our goal was to support 50 patients in a year, and we’ve far surpassed that expectation; in just 12 months, we trained 67 volunteers who supported 262 birthing patients!” This is an important achievement, Uma said, because of ECU Health’s wide reach to patients across the region. “ECU Health Medical Center is the sole provider of high-risk prenatal care across our 29 county region, so many of our patients have to navigate countless barriers to even make it to our hospital.”

Both McLaggan and Uma emphasized that their efforts would not have been fruitful if not for the support of administrators, classmates and fellow volunteers.

Ed Chambers

Ed Chambers, an ECU Health Medical Center volunteer, was recognized with the 2023 North Carolina Governor’s Award for Volunteer Services. He poses for a photo with a hospital wheel chair at ECU Health Medical Center's cancer center.

Ed Chambers is a patient escort volunteer at the Medical Center, where he has garnered over 5,000 hours of service in the 23 years he’s volunteered for the system. The Pennsylvania native grew up on a dairy farm before being sent overseas to Okinawa, Japan for service in the Air Force. He eventually moved to Goldsboro, North Carolina, where he met his first wife. She passed away in 1997, but he remarried in 1998.

Chambers worked for 30 years at DuPont in Kinston and Charleston, South Carolina before retiring, and in 2000, his wife came home and told him she applied to volunteer at the Medical Center.

“I asked her if she got me an application, and she said, ‘get yourself one.’ So I did and we worked together for about seven years until she had a knee replacement,” Chambers said. “I’ve just enjoyed it ever since and keep right on getting into it.”

Chambers has been recognized as the Volunteer of the Year for the hospital, and he enjoys training new volunteers. He primarily works in the North tower and in the Cancer Center, and while he can only work one day a week, he hopes to continue volunteering for as long as he’s able.

“I’m hoping I can get 30 years in at the hospital,” he said.

Chambers’ favorite part of volunteering is the people.

“Over the years, I’ve enjoyed getting to know the other great volunteers and the patients,” he said. “I enjoy meeting people and helping them out. It’s been a pleasure.”

Winning the award was a “great honor” for Chambers, and it was special that his daughters, one of whom has also volunteered at the Medical Center, attended the award ceremony.

“I know there are a lot of people deserving of this honor, and I hope their time comes,” Chambers said.

Chad Tucker

Chad Tucker is the director of the Volunteer Services Department at the Medical Center, where he oversees the recruitment, training and quality assurance for all volunteers in the Medical Center. He’s worked at ECU Health for nine years, and in addition to his work at the Medical Center, Tucker serves as the vice president for the NC Hospital Volunteer Professionals and volunteers with his fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, where he’s serving as the Area Director.

Tucker attended East Carolina University where he got two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s in public health with a health care administration concentration.

“I thought I wanted to be an attorney,” he said. “I took the LSAT and realized it wasn’t my passion.” Tucker said he “fell into” his role and he’s loved it ever since. “This isn’t a position; it’s my passion.”

Chad Tucker, director of the Volunteer Services Department at the Medical Center, shakes hands with Jennifer Congleton, administrator of pastoral care and volunteer services, while they hold the North Carolina Governor’s Award for Volunteer Service: Paid Volunteer Director.

The best part of his job, he said, is seeing the volunteers interact with the patients, team members and guests.

“I enjoy seeing the impact they make, whether it’s a teenager, a college student who wants to go into health care or someone who is retired wanting to give back.” For Tucker, he doesn’t do the work for recognition. “I just love seeing the organization flourish,” he said. “It’s amazing to see our volunteers’ work and hear team members or patients who are grateful for their service.”

During his tenure, the number of volunteer programs has grown.

“We’ve grown our pet therapy program and our doula program,” he detailed. “We’ve added some people for art therapy, and we’ve had some people do music therapy, as well. Our teen program is one of the largest in the state for VolunTeens, ages 15-17. We’ve added our family medicine clinic and volunteers at the Wellness Center, as well.”

Those experiences have made his time with ECU Health rewarding.

“I’ve loved the opportunity to interact with so many different team members, volunteers, patients and staff, but I’ve also loved the professional development to grow,” Tucker said. “I like to volunteer in the community, so it’s a great marriage of me volunteering and professionally managing volunteers.”

When Tucker attended the Pitt County Commissioner’s meeting to recognize McLaggan, Uma and Chambers, he was surprised to learn he’d won the North Carolina Governor’s Award for Volunteer Service: Paid Volunteer Director.

“I was in complete shock,” he said. “I’m honored to be of service as a paid volunteer, but I also love engaging with volunteers who want to serve in the hospital and community.”

Jennifer Congleton, the administrator of pastoral care and volunteer services, hired Tucker and has enjoyed watching him grow into his role.

“To see him recruit and retain volunteers and become a director – it’s been a tremendous feat,” she said. “It’s been a privilege to work with him, mentor him and see him develop into a leader.”

Congratulations to the winners and thank you to all of the volunteers and team members who serve eastern North Carolina at ECU Health. To learn more about the NC Governor’s Award for Volunteer Service, to nominate a volunteer or to see the full list of the 2023 winners, click here.