Rotarian John Hoffman ‘volunteers’ for his boss

Tom KingFarragut

John Hoffman invited his “boss” at the University of Tennessee Medical Center (UTMC) to speak to the Rotary Club of Farragut yesterday. But Covid had other ideas. Amy Perkins is in isolation at home. So, what now?

So, Hoffman stepped up and “volunteered” to stand in and be our speaker. Perkins is the director of Volunteer and Visitor Services at UTMC and Hoffman’s boss. He is one of the 300-plus volunteers – known as Patient Ambassadors – who make a big difference for patients, their families, nurses and administrators daily.

“I’m going to tell you my story,” he began. “I’ve been volunteering for a year and a half, and I will tell you that the people there – the nurses, the aides, the doctors, all of them – are all angels of mercy filled with passion. I see it every day I’m there.”

John Hoffman

Hoffman, a Farragut Rotarian for 11 years, is retired from the UT Haslam College of Business as a senior lecturer who taught international business strategy and leading innovation and change. He began teaching at UT in 2004. He also is a leadership coach and a mentor in the Leadership Development Program for MBA students and a member of the Chancellor’s Associates.

He volunteers at the UTMC Infusion Center, a schedule-based, nine-chair outpatient center serving patients across the medical center’s 21-county region. He’s a “runner” and is on his feet a lot. He walks between six and 10 miles during each four-hour shift. He’s constantly carrying blood, medications and other items back and forth from the pharmacy to the center.

“Whenever you have this ambassador vest on, you’re on the job and working, and people and patients stop to ask questions and need help, and you help them wherever you are in the hospital.”

Hoffman was headed home one day after a long shift and ran into a “very distraught lady” in the parking garage. Her daughter had been in a car accident and flown to UT’s emergency room in a Lifestar emergency helicopter from a rural community. She was trying to find her. “I think I calmed her down some, listened, and I walked her through the Covid process, through security and to the ER, and she found her daughter,” he said.

Hoffman said he literally “watched people age” at UTMC during the worst of the Covid crisis. “Most all of them at one time or another had it, and during Covid they shut down the volunteer program for six to eight months, so the work the volunteers did went to the nurses and other staff members, and most all of them worked long hours. This has been both a very moving experience for me and a learning experience,” he explained. “Everyone there, every day, has to give it their all and they do. Covid had a huge impact.”

He visits with and listens to the patients. He helps them with their problems and concerns. He loves what he does.

“Once you retire you still need a purpose in life, and I found mine volunteering,” Hoffman explained. “I’m trying to make a difference by serving, and I have a true sense of reward in doing what I do.”

Hoffman told his fellow Rotarians that there is a real variety of volunteer opportunities throughout the hospital. “If you try it, you will not be disappointed. It’s special work the volunteers do,” he said.

If you are interested in volunteering, call 865-305-9515.

Tom King has served at newspapers in Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and California and was the editor of two newspapers. Suggest future stories at or call him at 865-659-3562

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