Most of the time, you'll find Tais de Jesus, M.D., in a cardiology laboratory at Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus. Dr. de Jesus, a visiting scholar from Brazil, says the work keeps her busy. Even so, for two hours each weekend she leaves her research behind and heads over to Mayo Clinic Children's Center, where she volunteers as a manicurist, polishing the fingernails and toenails of some of Mayo's smallest patients.
"I did nails for one little girl who was only two years old," Dr. de Jesus tells us. "She was so cute, waving her hands afterward to dry the polish."
A little pampering is good medicine for anyone, Dr. de Jesus says, no matter what their age. "When we go to the salon, it feels good," she says. Something else that feels good? Giving back. "Really, I think I'm being selfish," she says of her volunteer work. "I gain much more than I give. I feel closer to the angels and closer to God when I am with the kids."
Dr. de Jesus has a history of giving back. Back home in Brazil, she volunteered as a cardiologist to patients without health insurance. When she arrived in the U.S., Dr. de Jesus wanted to find a way to help others here. But in a country that seemed so rich compared to her own, she wasn't sure what she could do. Each time she'd talk to her mother on the phone, Dr. de Jesus would receive a nudge to just do something. "When I wasn't volunteering, she would say, 'Tais, you have to do some social work.'" Eventually, those nudges — combined with a love for children and her Christian beliefs — prompted Dr. de Jesus to call Mayo Clinic's volunteer office. "I told the coordinator I wanted to work with kids, and she offered me the 'nail girl' position."
At first, Dr. de Jesus wasn't sure she had the skills for the job. "I expected to be playing with kids," she says. But soon, she was wielding nail polish like a pro, embellishing nails with glitter or designs requested by her young charges.
In return for her weekly efforts, she tells us she's rewarded with thank-yous, hugs and smiles. Some of the most meaningful smiles, Dr. de Jesus says, are from the parents. "I don't have words for the parents' reactions," she tells us. "When they see their kids happy, they are happy."
All of that happiness makes Dr. de Jesus happy, too. "When you give something good, you receive something good," she says. "It feels so good to help. I don't know why more people don't do it."
Dr. de Jesus will be finishing her research position and leaving Mayo Clinic in June. Which means the Children's Center will soon need a new manicurist. If you're interested in the gig — or other volunteer opportunities at Mayo Clinic — you can learn more here. Then let us nudge you to leave a comment below before using the handy social media tools atop this page to share this story with others.