Through Their Jobs and Volunteer Work, Baxter Employees Find Joy in Giving Back to the Hemophilia Community

Apr 15, 2015 2:00 PM ET feature story

When Dwayne Whitis was six years old, a trip to a hemophilia summer camp changed everything.

“Camp was the first opportunity to see that what usually made us feel so different was what made us all the same,” says Dwayne, who has severe hemophilia A and works at Baxter as a bleeding disorder manager covering Washington, Oregon and Alaska. “These camps are such powerful programs—they give young people an identity and help alleviate isolation.”

He continued to attend camp until he was a teenager and then as an adult, came back as a staff member, which he says, “felt like coming home.” Today, while Dwayne’s current job responsibilities involve conducting educational events for hemophilia patients and caregivers and participating in advocacy efforts at the state and national level, he also continues to volunteer at three to five hemophilia camps each summer.

“Baxter gives me the support and freedom to volunteer at these camps,” he notes. “They encourage people to be involved, and I really appreciate that. I’m so fortunate to be in a position where my personal vision is shared by my employer.”

As he sees many of the same young people year after year, Dwayne finds it rewarding to follow their development.

“It’s an amazing joy in my life to watch them grow into adulthood,” Dwayne shares. “I see them get jobs, get married, have kids. It’s like having hundreds of your own children running around.”

Connecting with and educating patients

Kim Spencer, a senior clinical consultant with Baxter in Texas and Louisiana, feels a similar connection. Kim, who has a background as a clinical nurse specialist and pediatric nurse practitioner, conducts educational events for patients and caregivers, provides resources to hospitals and health centers and teaches about hemophilia in schools.

“I’m honored to be part of their lives, from the early stages to now,” she says. “It makes me proud to see a young person become empowered, handle life’s transitions and hopefully live without bleeds or lower their annual bleed rate. We’re hoping to make hemophilia a small part of their lives so they can be who they want to be. I am fulfilling my passion by making a difference through educating and empowering those with bleeding disorders.”

Kim, who has been working in the hemophilia community for more than 20 years, notes that it’s just as gratifying to help generate awareness around hemophilia for those who are unfamiliar.

“One of my favorite things is to do school visits and to meet with teachers, PE instructors, bus drivers and counselors, who have students with hemophilia, to educate them about the disease,” she shares. “They are so nervous and want to do the right thing. Once I educate them more about hemophilia and share resources, they breathe a big sigh of relief.”

Raising awareness among employees and the community

Michelle Dotson, senior executive assistant in quality operations at Baxter’s Thousand Oaks, Calif., facility, which manufactures recombinant factor VIII therapy used to treat hemophilia, also feels passionate about educating people about hemophilia—including her Baxter coworkers. She helps organize hemophilia patient and caregiver visits to the Thousand Oaks facility, where they share their experiences with Baxter employees.

“Coordinating these visits wasn’t originally one of my responsibilities, but I’m so passionate about it that now it is,” she shares. “Some people just beginning their careers might see this work as just a job. But when they actually meet the patients, all of a sudden they associate a face with the work they’re doing and it really hits home.”

She’s also committed to raising awareness and money for local hemophilia organizations on her own time. Michelle helps plan fundraisers such as candy and flower sales and an annual family movie night, and has managed hemophilia golf tournament teams and a holiday toy drive for children with hemophilia. She’s also been able to give back through Baxter’s Dollars for Doers program, which provides grants to qualified organizations where Baxter employees have actively volunteered for at least 10 hours within a calendar year.

“It feels good to give back,” she says. “It’s so rewarding.” 

Michelle also helps recruit Spanish-speaking employee volunteers for a Hispanic Heritage hemophilia event in Los Angeles, where she’s coordinated activities for children with hemophilia and their siblings while their parents attend informational seminars.

“My heart tears away when I see a child with hemophilia,” she says. “But it feels good to know we make their therapy and it can be life-changing for them.”