New Docent Views Training as Chance to Challenge Herself

By: Shannon Sarino, National Museum of Health and Medicine

Monica Monteon is a new addition to the National Museum of Health and Medicine (NMHM) volunteer docent team.

"I moved [to the area from the Pacific Northwest] in November (2013) and when I found a house in Silver Spring, I was really excited to be so close to this museum, since health, medicine and public health are what I am really interested in," she said. "I then looked it up online to see what kind of volunteer opportunities existed. I haven't even made it to any other museum yet."

Monteon completed her docent training in February 2014, and said she has enjoyed all of the information she has received during her time with NMHM.

"I love learning new things and incorporating this knowledge with what I know. Being a docent also allows me the opportunity to challenge myself to do something that is slightly beyond my comfort zone," she said.

Volunteer docents provide education and interpretive support for NMHM's programming. Docents support tours, outreach and family programs. Through NMHM's educational programs, the museum inspires and promotes interest in the understanding of medicine—past, present and future—with a special emphasis on American military medicine. With a vast collection of more than 25 million objects and a diversity of visitors, volunteers at NMHM are provided with a unique and rewarding experience.

Monteon has a public health epidemiology background. She worked in the Peace Corps in Ecuador and as an epidemiologist for a local health department in Washington. She is currently working in infection prevention at a Washington, D.C., hospital.

In addition to her full-time job and her NMHM volunteer work, Monteon volunteers with the Washington, D.C., Humane Society at adoption events and at the spay and neuter clinic.

Although she is new to the museum, she has quickly become a valued member of the docent team.

"Monica is one of the newest volunteers to join NMHM's program. Her background in epidemiology provides a new insight in to many topics covered at the museum," said Gwen Nelmes, NMHM tour program coordinator. "She is always eager and energetic to support the museum programs, including the U.S.A. Science and Engineering Festival. She is a great asset to the team."

And of all the specimens and artifacts currently on exhibit, Monteon has a definite favorite.

"I'd have to go with Garfield's vertebrae with the bullet hole trajectory. I…was really moved and saddened by the story. We lost a great president that not many people know too much about," she said. "And he didn't have to die; the idea of 'sterile technique' hadn't been embraced by U.S. physicians yet and he died of the resulting infection that ravaged his body because of the attempts to dig the bullet out. The story fits in so well with my current occupation and with D.C."

If you are interested in military medicine, history, medical science and have a general love of museums, join NMHM as a volunteer docent! Candidates must be at least 21 years of age and have a flexible schedule.


Caption: Volunteer docent Monica Monteon works with a young participant at the Teddy Bear Clinic on Sept. 13, 2014, at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Maryland.
(Disclosure: This image has been cropped to emphasize the subject.) (National Museum of Health and Medicine photo by Matthew Breitbart / Released)