“If you knew tomorrow would be your last day on earth, what would you do?
I would do things I’ve never done before.”
– Lori Roads
In 2003, Lori Roads decided she would do something she had never done before: graduate from college. At forty-six years old, she decided to step back onto the San Diego State University campus and earn a college degree. The last time she attended was in 1979 and her major was business. With only a few classes left before earning an undergraduate degree, she decided to take a hiatus to raise a family. This was Lori’s primary focus until her son, Garrett, passed away in an untimely and tragic car accident at only 17. While recovering from her son’s death, she came across a journal entry from the day before the fatal accident for an English course he was taking in high school. The prompt that day had been, “If you knew tomorrow would be your last day on earth, what would you do?” His answer, simple and resonant: “I would do things I’ve never done before.”
This sparked Lori into action; she enrolled in community college courses and transferred to SDSU to complete her undergraduate degree in social work. She continued her education and enrolled in the 3-year master of social work program. Being an older student presented unexpected challenges such as working with new technology. Fortunately, her fellow SDSU classmates were eager to lend a helping hand, including showing her how to text for the first time.
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During her time at SDSU, Lori took a variety of crucial classes including Macro Social Work Practice that taught her how to compose grant proposals and the language of writing for research. She also worked as a research assistant for one of her professors and had three internships that helped her get a feel for the world of social work. It was during her internships involving hospice, gerontology, and oncology that she began to find her professional focus. Lori states, “Knowing what it felt like to lose someone made a difference. To be invited into that meaningful time in families’ lives is a profound honor. Working in the field of hospice is a privilege and something that just ‘suits my soul.’”
Since graduating in 2010, Lori has become a medical social worker at Scripps Hospital’s new hospice program and recently won the first Professional Employee of the Year award. She has also participated in many volunteer opportunities within the community such as bereavement support groups, hospice for the homeless, and Third Avenue Charitable Organization. In the future, she plans to pursue further education centered on hospice care and explore the Emerging Leaders Program at Scripps Hospital. Lori still keeps in touch with SDSU by guest speaking about palliative care in both undergraduate and graduate level classes.
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Written by: Paloma Pierce