At 1:30 in the morning, Saundra stepped into her blocks at the starting line. This was the last event of the “Last Chance” track meet. The race would determine if the season was over, or if she would go to Nationals. The leadoff leg of the 4x400 relay team, Saundra squinted under the floodlights, settled into position and waited for the gun. No matter how many times she had run this race, she still rehearsed the strategy in her mind’s eye. “The first 100 meters is a fast fight,” she explains. Dropping into a perfect, rhythmic stride in the backstretch would allow her to finish in sixty seconds. Too fast, and her legs would turn to lead in the last 50 meters. Too slow, and the team would forfeit their chance to compete again. “When body, mind and spirit sync into quiet harmony, it’s beautiful,” she smiles. She handed off the baton to her teammate and watched the clock. Her soul was satisfied when the stopwatch read 3:56.75. There would, indeed, be another race. Now, decades later, she finds that zen-like harmony when she attends to patients and their families by providing spiritual care.
Saundra is a Chaplain at St. Mark’s
St. Mark’s Hospital Chaplain Saundra Shanti wanted to connect patients to their caregivers and employees to each other. That’s why she created the Healing Hands portrait series, featuring black and white photographs and stories of St. Mark’s employees at all levels.
“Our patients and families who go in and out know that this is a nurse, and this is a housekeeper, but they don’t know them as people,” Saundra said. “I wanted to humanize our healthcare community to one another and to our families and patients.”
Each photo is accompanied by a story; some biographical, others are anecdotes of experiences that led employees to become caregivers and healthcare professionals. Twelve portraits are currently displayed throughout the hospital, but a total of 36 photos will be rotated throughout the exhibit for the next two months.
By highlighting personal, inspiring and real stories about the staff who will be caring for patients during what can often be an emotional time, the exhibit builds a sense of community. Patients and families will be able to view caregivers as real people with real stories whom they can relate to and connect with, making the hospital experience more personal.
“When we humanize each other, we care more for one another,” Saundra said. “I wanted our employees to be recognized as valuable human beings apart from their professional titles. I wanted to cultivate interaction and respect across our departments and services.”