By Wendy Sarubbi | November 3, 2021 2:30 pm

When medical student Brittany Perry told leaders of UCF’s new hospital she wanted to provide treats for first-responders treating COVID-19 patients, they thought she might deliver cupcakes. Instead, thanks to Lake Nona’s community, Perry collected $5,000 worth of gift cards and restaurant coupons for healthcare providers because “a little gratitude goes a long way.”

Brittany Perry delivers thank you packages to first responders at UCF Lake Nona Medical Center.

“I have worked in emergency rooms and hospitals and they’re under so much stress and then you add to that a pandemic,” she said. “I wanted to show them that we all care – especially because we are right next door.”

Perry and fellow students in the Class of 2024 enrolled in medical school during a global pandemic and did most of their first-year training remotely. They saw each other and their faculty largely on Zoom, with very few in-person encounters. “We didn’t get out much,” she said, laughing. One of her few public excursions was touring UCF Lake Nona Medical Center, the College of Medicine’s new partnership hospital with HCA Healthcare, that opened March 1 adjacent to the med school campus.

When the Delta variant hit, Perry said she was reminded and inspired by her experience living in Finland, where she was a Fulbright scholar studying maternal and child health. She said that Nordic country makes creating community part of its culture, including neighborhoods support groups for new mothers.

So she started emailing Lake Nona eateries and shops. She told them she was a UCF medical student and asked if they would donate gift cards, certificates or coupons for providers at UCF’s medical center. “People didn’t bat an eye,” she said. “They were incredibly generous.

She walked into one community restaurant and asked about gift cards. The manager came out with a box of 1,000. Another eatery was having its grand opening celebration and stopped the festivities to provide cards.

Donations were so generous and Brittany and several of her classmates were able to create 200 decorated thank you packages, and even had enough to donate some to the Orlando VA Medical Center.

UCF Lake Nona Medical Center has more healthcare providers than gifts, so it’s been holding raffles. An ICU physician was in the lobby when Perry delivered the packages and was so thankful she was close to tears.

“We were extremely touched by the generosity of not only the community, but of the UCF College of Medicine students who took the time to thank our hospital,” said the hospital’s leader, Wendy Brandon. “Our team of frontline caregivers and colleagues appreciated these gifts and are again reminded of why our Lake Nona community is so very special.”

With thanks to these generous Lake Nona contributors:

  • Foxtail Coffee
  • Canvas
  • Island Fin Poke
  • Oak Aged Farm
  • Drive Shack
  • Veg’N Out
  • Pho Haven
  • Hot Taco Street Taqueria
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