Graeme Fenton, a second-year medical student at the University of Florida, discovered Wilmot Botanical Gardens after a week-long rotation in UF’s Division of Hematology and Oncology at the Medical Plaza. He would walk through the gardens each day to get to clinic and quickly realized how much he appreciated these gardens. He then began to explore our volunteer opportunities and after doing some research online, he found a volunteer application on our website and applied.
Graeme says that he has always had a passion for gardening, plants and nature. As a young boy Graeme was a Boy Scout and later became an Eagle Scout and spent a great deal of time outdoors learning how to appreciate nature. He and his mother spent many hours in their backyard garden and grew a variety of fruits and vegetables. Through this firsthand gardening experience, Graeme quickly learned how weeds can overtake a garden – something we experience throughout the year on a regular basis. His gardening and nature know-how have made Graeme a vital part of our volunteer team – not only for his love of nature and his impressive skill set but for his passion, hard work and determination.
Wilmot Botanical Gardens’ mission is “To preserve and enhance these historic gardens as a verdant space and living laboratory dedicated to improving the quality of life of its visitors through plant interactions, education and research.” We believe our impact on the UF and Gainesville community is vital to healing and improving one’s quality of life, and Graeme as a medical student, believes this too. Graeme says that “healing and recovery extend far beyond pharmacologic or surgical interventions. Offering a space that fosters contemplation and a sense of vitality can have a significant impact on patients and families throughout their care.” It is this belief that aligns quite well with the mission of the Wilmot Botanical Gardens and makes Graeme an ideal volunteer. Additionally, he says that “The Gardens have reinforced my interest in holistic medicine – treating the whole person and not solely their disease. Lifestyle has a major influence on our health, both mental and physical. Taking time away from studying and lectures to be outdoors reminds me of how important activities like gardening can be to one’s wellbeing.”
Graeme has a friendly personality and a tremendously positive outlook towards life. Head Gardener Steve Pritchett says “Graeme always has a kind bearing and a humble, joyful, can-do attitude. He makes my job a delight whenever he’s around, and he’s a terrific conversationalist.” We hope to continue to have him around as a highly valued volunteer until he moves on to make an even greater impact on the rest of the world.
Graeme hopes to pursue a medical career in oncology with a focus on developing cancer immunotherapies. He is also the director of the Equal Access Clinic Network, a network of free clinics run by UF medical students that provides primary medical care and services for those who are uninsured. Graeme has a bright future ahead and we are delighted he chose to walk through Wilmot Botanical Gardens on his way to clinic.
Business Manager, Wilmot Botanical Gardens, College of Medicine