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Women's health remains priority for doctors turned medical museum volunteers

The National Museum of Health and Medicine promotes the science and history of medicine, with a special emphasis on tri-service American military medicine. The museum identifies, collects and preserves important and unique resources to support a broad agenda of innovative exhibits, educational programs and scientific, historical and medical research. The museum maintains a national landmark collection of objects that sustains and promotes military medical history, tradition, and research to the Department of Defense and civilian communities. (NMHM graphic) The National Museum of Health and Medicine promotes the science and history of medicine, with a special emphasis on tri-service American military medicine. The museum identifies, collects and preserves important and unique resources to support a broad agenda of innovative exhibits, educational programs and scientific, historical and medical research. The museum maintains a national landmark collection of objects that sustains and promotes military medical history, tradition, and research to the Department of Defense and civilian communities. (NMHM graphic)

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As docents at the National Museum of Health and Medicine (NMHM), Sara and David Handwerker will point out an adult female pelvis in the museum’s “Human Identification” exhibit to visitors. That kind of specimen shares a connection to their own professional histories as doctors: more than 30 years of experience in obstetrics/gynecology and maternal-fetal medicine. NMHM is especially grateful for their volunteerism in October, when women’s health gets special attention in the Military Health System (MHS). NMHM is a Department of Defense museum.

NMHM volunteer docent Sara Handwerker receives the Bronze Presidential Service Award for providing 100 -249 hours of service to the museum in 2017. Each year the Army Volunteer Corps recognizes the dedication and service of volunteers supporting the mission at Fort Detrick and the Forest Glen Annex. (National Museum of Health and Medicine photo by Amanda Quinn)
NMHM volunteer docent Sara Handwerker receives the Bronze Presidential Service Award for providing 100 -249 hours of service to the museum in 2017. (National Museum of Health and Medicine photo by Amanda Quinn/Released)

October 2018 is also a service anniversary for the Handwerkers: four years of devoting their time to the medical museum’s visitors. The couple retired from New York City government hospitals several years ago and relocated to the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area to live near family. They joined the museum’s volunteer corps in October 2014, motivated by a love for history and medicine.

The Handwerkers clearly enjoy volunteerism; this spring, Sara received a special pin from the museum and a Bronze Presidential Service Award from the Army Volunteer Corps (AVC) in appreciation for 163 hours of dedication and service at NMHM in 2017, the most time any docent devoted to the museum last year. David also received the AVC’s Bronze Presidential Service Award for providing 104 service hours to NMHM in 2017. They were recognized for guiding tours and assisting with educational programs.

NMHM volunteer docent David Handwerker receives the Bronze Presidential Service Award for providing 100-249 hours of service to the museum in 2017. Each year the Army Volunteer Corps recognizes the dedication and service of volunteers supporting the mission at Fort Detrick and the Forest Glen Annex. (National Museum of Health and Medicine photo by Amanda Quinn)
NMHM volunteer docent David Handwerker receives the Bronze Presidential Service Award for providing 100-249 hours of service to the museum in 2017. (National Museum of Health and Medicine photo by Amanda Quinn/Released)

During Women’s Health Month in October, the MHS reminds women to be proactive in addressing their health issues and have regularly-scheduled visits to their health care provider. Both museum volunteers support the MHS message. They encourage women to engage in preventive care and talk with their health care providers; as doctors, they treated women with undiagnosed infections or breast cancer, and women who became ill while pregnant due to untreated conditions.

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