Doctor, Doctor

Two former Medical Services volunteers become doctors, marry and donate wedding registry to Madison House

Susan and Rob Callahan, Medical Services Former Volunteers

Susan and Rob Callahan, Medical Services Former Volunteers


Twenty years ago, Susan and Rob Callahan met as UVA second-years in an organic chemistry class as part of their pre-medical school academic track. In this particular class, their last names — Callahan and Susan’s maiden name, Catalan — were so close alphabetically that they were paired as lab partners. Not surprising to students familiar with organic chemistry, Susan and Rob quickly bonded over the rigors of their studies.  

“Chem lab was difficult,” Susan remembers. “We became friends.”  

Susan and Rob as UVA students

Susan and Rob as UVA students

What helped them become better friends? Volunteering with Madison House’s sought-after Medical Services program at the UVA Health System, Susan says. At the time, Rob served as a Program Director for the burn center at the Health System’s Intensive Care Unit and helped Susan join the program as a volunteer. In addition to volunteering with the Medical Services program, Susan also joined the Recreational Therapy program and spent time teaching physically and mentally disabled individuals how to ride horses. 

Rob and Susan visiting Grounds as alumni

Rob and Susan visiting Grounds as alumni

“We were really starting from the bottom-up in the medical profession,” Susan says. She and Rob now work as family physicians and see their time as Medical Services program volunteers as meaningful to their development in the field. “It felt like we were learning about the hospital and patient care, and seeing how the doctors and the nurses operated.” 

Rob remembers one particular patient “who stuck with him” from his time as a volunteer.

“This gentleman had a really bad electrical burn and had lost part of his arm,” Rob says. “The experience at 19 or 20 years old and seeing someone’s life shattered by injury, and the experience at that age of someone going through something so real — it brings you out of your privileged college world.”  

Susan experienced a similar “full-circle” moment while visiting her aunt in a hospital in Roanoke, Virginia, and being recognized by the nurse caring for her aunt. 

“She said to me, ‘Your name is Susan.’ I said, ‘I don’t remember meeting.’ And she said, ‘You cared for my son at UVA’s burn unit.”  It was then that Susan realized she had, indeed, cared for the nurse’s son during her time volunteering and felt grateful to know that the nurse’s son had recovered.  


Medical Services at-a-glance

Image: 2017-2018 Head Program Directors and Program Directors

COmmunity partners

Asera Care, Charlottesville Free Clinic, Martha Jefferson Hospital, New Century Hospice, UVA Health System

Estimated service hours during 2017 — 2018 academic year:

37,097 service hours

economic value of madison house volunteers’ 2017 — 2018 medical services estimated hours:


This past April, Rob and Susan were married at the UVA Chapel. Rob’s best man and two of Susan’s bridesmaids were also former Madison House volunteers. In lieu of gifts, the couple asked guests to make a donation to Madison House via a link on their wedding website. 

“We mentioned that we were volunteers together, and that Madison House is close to our hearts all these years later,” Susan says. “Looking back, we were inspired by meeting at UVA and becoming friends here.” 

“Madison House is special because it’s still a completely student-run nonprofit and reaches out to not just medical services but all around the community and all ages — from newborns to the geriatric,” says Susan. “It’s a great way for students to realize how to be a resource for others and how much of a difference can be made.” 

Rob agrees. “There are so many great people in Madison House’s programs and all have a heart to want to use their time to give,” he says. “There are community benefits [...]. Each of its programs meets a need.”